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VoIP says hello to the iPhone

Ready to develop, if users want it

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UK-based VoIP provider Truphone last night demonstrated its ability to place a VoIP call from an Apple iPhone, as well as some Facebook integration.

Unlike other VoIP demonstrations, which rely on call-backs and the voice channel, this is a real VoIP client, running as a native application on the iPhone (and thus requiring the phone to be unlocked for the installation of applications, though not to be able to use a different SIM).

The Facebook announcement is an extension to its presence capability, embedding an icon into someone's Facebook wall with a "Call Me" button. It's a nice application, and should be launched soon, but was clearly overshadowed by the iPhone app.

The app is very much a capability-demonstration, requiring mucking about with terminal settings and lacking a user interface, but it does prove the iPhone could be a VoIP client, as well as demonstrating Truphone's technical prowess.

Whether Truphone turns it into a commercial product will depend on what proportion of iPhone users decide to unlock their phones for application installation. Apple has remained ambivalent about users doing that, in contrast to its warnings to those who SIM-unlock the handset. It seems likely that Apple is also watching to see how many iPhone users decide it's worth the effort.

Before Mac fans start frothing at the mouth about how easy it is to unlock an iPhone for applications, consider how much of the general population have bothered to make their DVD players multi-region. It may be easy for El Reg readers, but the majority of users just don't bother, and live with the manufacturer-imposed restrictions on their hardware.

Of course, a working VoIP client could well be the killer application which drives users to unlock, but whether Truphone has the resources, or inclination, to take that gamble remains to be seen. ®

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