Skype: Coming to a Cell Phone Near You

Yesterday, Skype announced the availability of two new beta clients for mobile phones: Skype for Windows Mobile 2.5 beta and a renamed Skype for Mobile, now called Skype Lite. While the new beta version of Skype for Windows Mobile basically provides improved call quality and stability for those with Windows Mobile smartphones, Skype Lite opens up a entire new set of potential cell phone users who will be able to make calls to Skype contacts from mobile phones at the cost of a “local” cell phone call.

Skype Lite is the latest beta iteration of the former Skype for Mobile beta, which only supported a few smartphones such as the Nokia N95. Skype Lite supports more than 90 Java-capable cell phones (including some smartphones) that also have some basic web browser and data capabilities. An unlimited data plan is recommended.

This morning, Truphone also made an announcement about its ability to use the cellular network to make low-cost VoIP-enabled calls from and to the iPhone. With both announcements, it now appears that we will be seeing two major players in the low-cost international mobile conversation space.

There a few differences between the Skype and Truphone offerings: Skype, with over 30 million users daily, supports both voice and its own instant messaging conversations across a variety of mobile handsets. landline phones and PC platforms. Truphone supports voice and has shown support for messaging via traditional SMS services across mobile devices and landlines.

One caveat for both services: the low cost only applies when calling from your home country; otherwise you could invoke significant roaming charges.

Seems like Truphone has taken the leadership for low cost international calling on what is becoming a most popular smartphone (as well as several other smartphones). Does the combination of Truphone’s announcement and all this Skype beta activity portend Skype for iPhone too? It could be something for the new CTO and CSO to get behind.

Jim Courtney is an Associate Editor at Skype Journal.