Yesterday Mike Butcher, TechCrunch UK broke the news about the new Truphone application that works on the Apple iPod Touch, giving the Touch users around the world the ability to call one another. It can be found in the Apple App Store.
What I see as the big deal here is what else the geniuses at Truphone are throwing into the mix. A complete set of calling capabilities that shows just how far they have thought this opportunity through.
For starters Truphone will soon be adding PSTN In and Out Calling to the platform along with calls to Skype pals and MSN Messenger buddies. This in essence means Truphone has made the Apple iPod Touch into a full blown WiFi phone, and truly a universal calling solution.
I'm also told by my friends inside client Truphone that you can make SIP calls too, thus rivaling Fring but offering far better call quality making it a True VoIP 2.0 phoning experience. Since it also "talks to Google Talk" the Truphone folks have practically covered all the calling bases they need to for a first release. I call that downright impressive.
The move by Truphone to enter the iPod market with a service that is as complete as this one is significant, due in part to both the size of user base now, and the likely growth we'll see of iPod Touch users in the future. This move also means that Truphone has taken a "first strike" at being the first Mobile VoIP player to work inside the home (or any place WiFi is) on a device that isn't really supposed to be a phone, by enabling it to be called by almost anyone from anywhere. In an era of what I labeled device divergence after attending Telco 2.0 a year or so ago, the Apple iPod Touch with Truphone is dead center to what I was musing about, as they have taken a device that is purpose built to do one thing very well, and then adding a useful and widely used complimentary service (phone calling) to it that works nicely and coexists without taking away from the primary purpose of the gadget. Entertainment.
Other players in VoIP have done similar things, but against far smaller user bases. We all know about Skype on the Sony Mylo and Nokia Tablets, the N800 and N810, as well as GizmoProject on all three Nokia Tablets since the start. But while both devices are technical design and function wonders, neither has the widespread distribution, availability or likely audience size of the Apple iPod Touch.
For kids and college students who love their music and their video, especially those on campuses with WiFi, this means they can reduce their cell plan to make calls to regular land lines, and if mom, dad or their friends have iPod Touches, or Truphone accounts those calls are FREE just as calls back to them are FREE. For the under 12 set, this means mom and dad can avoid giving them a cell phone. For kids this means they can call their parents over WiFi at work, and for FREE if they have a SIP address. All they need to do is type it in or likely add it to the contact directory already in the iPod.
But I see more disruption ahead with this. Take the area which cable TV powerhouse Cablevision services outside of New York City. Cablevision has lit up a WiFi cloud for their cable customers own use. No roamers from foreign systems. So for Cablevision subscribers in already cellular coverage challenged New York City, the iPod Touch and Truphone helps them stay, ahem, in touch.
This is also awesome for the fledgling Clear (ex ZOHM and Clearwire) crowd of users. Now they can have a full blown VoIP experience over one of the best IP networks around. Barry West said in Baltimore he wanted something more than Skype. Well, Mr. West, here it is.
Now let me go one step further. If you're out and about using a paid for WiFi service, applications like Easy WiFi from DeviceScape and soon a few others mean you can latch onto services like BT, The Cloud, Boingo, FON or T-Mobile's Hotspot service around the globe and connect, fast and easily. You can then make calls the same way, and just as easily as I did today at Barcelona Airport using a combination of Boingo Mobile, the Nokia E90 and Truphone. The experience will be almost the same, and likely easier as the Truphone interface on the Touch is simpler. You just touch it. The call quality all the way to California this morning was crystal clear, and it never touched a roaming network. All IP until it reached my wife's cell phone in the house.
At home, the iPod Touch already connects quickly and easily to WiFi routers. At home I have a network of the Apple Airport Extreme and Airport Express, meaning I can be wandering the house, tuning out to my favorite music or listening to a podcast and take a call...Simply and easily and not have to go find my cell phone.
So, the next time you want to "reach out and touch someone" now you truly can, with your iPod Touch and Truphone. I call it TruTouch.
Update-> Forbes' AppleWatch has a take on how Truphone on the iPod Touch could be good for the Touch's sale and market acceptance overall.