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Skype has announced an Android version of its mobile VoIP service, and hinted that an iPhone client is in the works too - but anyone expecting proper mobile VoIP on Android will be disappointed with Skype Lite.

Officially still in beta, the Skype Lite service works in the same way as Skype's UK offering with network operator 3. A voice channel is used to make a local call which is then converted to VoIP back at the office, with one essential difference: Skype Lite users pay for that local call.

Remarkably Skype has managed to spin this into a feature: "Call on Skype wherever you are - no WiFi or 3G required", as though the ability to make phone calls over the phone network were something new. There are, of course, savings to be had for long distance and international calls, especially if those called are logged on to Skype.

Currently Skype Lite is available for a range of Java handsets ,and given that Android runs something akin to a Java Virtual Machine for all applications the port is unsurprising. An iPhone port will be more technically challenging as well as difficult to get into the Apple Application Store: partner operators are unlikely to be happy about a Skype Lite client turning their international calls into local ones, and if it can be stopped simply by asking Apple, with no public explanation needed, then they're likely to do just that.

Truphone managed to get their VoIP client onto the store, but only by removing the ability to work over 3G connections. The Skype Lite Java client connects over GPRS or similar to keep an updated list of Skype contacts, as well as allowing messaging to those contacts.

Skype isn't going to make a lot of money out of this - it's enabling users to make more SkypeOut calls, but the real aim is keeping punters logged in for longer. That way, the hope is, they'll be more likely to adopt Skype as a central part of their life - there's also the happy matter of a load of cheap publicity for porting a Java application onto a Java-based platform (Android). ®

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