What’s this? Apple reversed a decision? This doesn’t happen too often, so there’s little wonder then that it makes news. According to the LA Times, Apple has allowed app developers to enable 3G functionality for VOIP apps:
"We revised our Program License Agreement in conjunction with our updated Software Development Kit for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad Apps," wrote an Apple spokesperson. "Included in this update is the ability for developers to create VoIP apps that utilize cellular networks."
In general, VOIP (which is short for voice-over-internet-protocol) lets users make calls over a Wifi or data network, instead of over cellular. But Apple only allowed this over Wifi, which seriously limited its usability.
The story goes that, after the FCC got involved last year, reports surfaced of Apple-AT&T closed-door agreements to reject VOIP apps that worked over 3G. The goal was to protect the carrier’s profits, but last fall, Big Blue buckled and agreed to allow this functionality. Now it seems the current situation and revision of Apple’s PLA is the eventual but direct result of all this.
It won’t be long before Skype and Truphone start sending out software updates to take advantage of this newfound freedom, while app developers like Fring and iCall have already hopped on it. (Their new versions are already in the App Store.)
If you were observant, you probably caught that the quote mentioned the iPad. Yup — this means that instead of the tablet being just a gigantic iPod Touch, it could actually be more like a huge iPhone. The device has a built-in microphone, and can offer mobile phone calls beyond home Wifi and hotspots.
I just wonder how big a hit AT&T’s network is going to take with all this data-intensive stuff. The carrier already complains about us iPhone users as it is. Luckily for them, VOIP use isn’t exactly widespread — yet. But I wonder if that will change when the iPad debuts.