By Tara Lane, Staff Writer
Though the iPad has dominated online discussion and social media blogs this week, there was one announcement made at the recent Apple event that has been seemingly overlooked. On Wednesday, Apple has changed its strict iPhone developer policies, and successfully updated its software development kit (SDK) to allow VoIP calls to be made through the cellular network – not just on WiFi anymore. VoIP, which stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, refers to a technology enabling digital communication through the Internet, rather than through a traditional telephone network.
For now, there are only a handful of applications supported by the change, though the most notable is the free application, iCall and Fring. Shortly after the announcement was made, the developers of iCall issued a news release detailing the applications new functions, and why this change is so monumental for VoIP technology: “VoIP on the iPhone has been the source of many debates with companies such as Google being denied access to the platform and the FCC inquiring as to the restrictions in the Apple App Store; iCall is one of the few VoIP applications that has been permitted by Apple to operate on the iPhone platform.”
The change has opened doors for recognizable applications like Skype, Vonage, and Google Voice (which, although is not a VoIP-reliant application, has not been allowed on the iPhone since its inception). Vonage’s debut of their new app — aimed at customers who make frequent international calls — has a similar look and function to Google Voice, sparking the thought that the latter will be available to iPhone users in the near future. Apple has faced scrutiny because of their rejection of Google Voice, including an investigation by the FCC in summer 2009.
Previously, Apple and AT&T have not allowed VoIP calls to be made over a cell network, citing that the use of such technology was too draining. Though AT&T dropped their ban on VoIP in October, it’s taken Apple a little longer to follow suit. Clearly, Apple is now responding to customers, and is finally giving them what they want. This small and subtle change could also be a sign of more major changes to come – such as an end to the iPhone’s exclusivity with AT&T, as well as improved technology and functionality for the rumored iPhone 4G. As Google Voice grows in popularity with just-as-popular Android devices, Apple is fighting back and getting ready to compete.
The rumor that has the Internet buzzing, however, is VoIP functionality for the iPad. The new device does boast a built in microphone, leading many people to believe it will be able to be used to make VoIP calls. Without a camera, what good does will the microphone do if it can’t be used to make phone calls? There are still many questions that need to be answered surrounding the iPad, but one thing is for certain – Apple is heralding a new era of technology and gadgetry, and has no plans of slowing down.
Image by ilker from Stock.Xchng