Skype will release a free application for the iPhone on Tuesday, enabling owners to make Internet calls via Apple's popular handset. Skype calls do not count against regular cellphone minutes.
Because of restrictions imposed by Apple, you can be on a Skype call only while you have access to Wi-Fi. In cellular-only coverage, you can chat only with Skype buddies.
Parhaps Apple is trying to keep its cellphone carrier partners happy. Skype calls could cut into AT&T's cellphone business.
Other restrictions: You can be on a conference call within the iPhone app but cannot initiate one. And you must be logged in to the app to receive an incoming Skype call.
Skype on the iPhone is welcome despite these drawbacks, especially if you communicate with friends and colleagues overseas and don't want to pay AT&T's lofty rates. As with Skype on your computer, calls to Skype members are free; you can call land lines and mobile phones at low rates. What's more, if you have a headset with a microphone, you can also now make Skype calls on an iPod Touch.
During a call, you can summon an onscreen dialing pad, place a call on hold or turn a speakerphone function on or off. You can display all contacts or only those online. You can consult your call history and change your "status" to indicate when you are online or want to be undisturbed.
Skype newbies can sign up from the iPhone. You can use the iPhone camera to shoot the little picture that will appear next to your name, or choose an existing picture. But you cannot make a video Skype call through the iPhone as you can on your computer. If Apple were to give its blessing, Skype says there's no reason why video calls cannot occur in the future.