Skype Logo 200 pixelsLast week Skype iPhone application was approved by Apple and made available through the iTunes App Store. This was one of the most anticipated application for the iPhone after Qik for the iPhone and cut/copy & paste.

For those who do not know what Skype is, please allow me to quickly explain. Skype is classified as a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service. It was created in 2003 by the trio, Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu and Jaan Tallinn who also created Kazaa, the peer-to-peer file sharing application.

The client application is also called, "Skype", and it is a free download, you can install onto your mobile phone or computer, enabling you to make station to station calls free of charge over the IP network (ie. Internet).

In the past several years Skype had made its client available on Windows Mobile and Nokia phones, it is not until last week that this client is available on the iPhone. As in the past, this availability had not been well received by the global mobile carriers.

The Skype for iPhone is cripple in such a way that it cannot be used on the EDGE or 3G mobile network, and this mobile network block is done at the application level. Assuming this was the reason Apple was able to approve the application for the iTunes App Store.

I am sure that the only reason Skype and Apple had to impose this restriction is due to pressure from the mobile carrier partners around the world. I can't believe these carriers are still focused on the old business model of making money off their customer through VAS (value added services).

The mobile carrier should wake up and begin to focus their efforts on delivering the best network quality and coverage to its customers. While at the same time make available high quality contents that customers are willing to pay for. Rather than placing restrictions on hardware manufactures and software developers, which results in slowing technology growth and adoption.

Although, Skype is accessible through WiFi network it is still not a good solution for mobility communication. As WiFi network in most cities are still not roam-able, meaning a client's connection to one AP (Access Point) cannot be passed along to another AP while the client move about through out the city. Using Skype in such an environment makes it a good client for a stationary conversation within a WiFi hotspot.

Eventually wireless technology will develop in such a way that it will be roam-able and we will have seamless WiFi connectivity as we move about from hotspot to hotspot. At that time VoIP will become a definite challenge to regular cellular communication.


A reader of my blog asked a series of good questions and I thought it may be something all readers will be interested in, so I decided to create a post to answer him. Jonathan asked:

If I simply buy the phone from the Apple store (unlocked) and then get the sim from vodafone (they have a deal on at the moment) will it be as simple as putting it in and turning it on, and I'm good to go? Also, is there anything I need to be aware of when I am choosing my contract?

Yes, all iPhones purchased legitimately in Hong Kong from the mobile carrier Three ("3") or Apple HK Online Store are full carrier (SIM) unlocked iPhone 3G, and will accept any SIM cards that support the GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz and/or GSM 3G: 850, 900, 1900, 2100MHz.

Since Apple's EULA for the iPhone 3G purchased in Hong Kong states that you are suppose to use the iPhone 3G in Hong Kong. I suggest activating the iPhone using a SIM card from one of the Hong Kong carriers and iTunes HK Apple ID, just in case Apple has some hidden way to check your compliance to the EULA.

After you have activated the iPhone 3G you can point your iTunes to any of the other country specific iTunes Stores you like. One thing you must remember is that the iPhone can only be associated with one iTunes and iTunes Store (Apple ID) account at a time. Any music, movies and applications purchase from a particular iTunes Store/account will not work if you are not logged into and your iTunes is authorized by the same account.

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that I am against signing contracts with mobile carriers. Since mobile plans in Hong Kong changes (drops) every 6 - 8 months. Most of the carriers in Hong Kong have reasonably priced non-contractual plans except 1010 and One2Free. In most cases, the small amount of money you save each month is not worth the extra you pay over the duration of the contract.

No matter what tariff  plan you choose, you should pay attention to the type of data traffic it covers. Many of the data plans from Hong Kong carriers have very strict limits on the kind of traffic covered by the data plan. Any other type of data traffic will incur extra charges or not allowed. Example of the types of data traffic not allowed are VoIP and Bittorrent.

You can see examples of plans from different local carriers in my post New Tariff Plan from Smartone-Vodafone for iPhone the subsequence post Is Smartone-Vodafone’s IOM Value Pack Right for iPhone? will also be useful. Although, these articles are a bit dated it will give you the understanding necessary, to ask the right questions when you speaks to the sales people from the respective carriers. In most cases you will be more informed than the sales people, so make sure you read all the small small prints before committing. The one consistent exception had been from staff from Smartone-Vodafone. They seem to be very knowledgeable, but like any sales person, they may not tell you about certain points if you don't ask.

If you decide to jailbreak your iPhone, you should take a look at my post 7 Things You Love to Ask About iPhone Unlocking before you begin. At the moment there are only 2 applications that tempt me to jailbreak my iPhone 3G; they are BiteSMS and Qik. For the latter, the developers had said an approved iPhone App will be available on the iTunes Store, unfortunately that was over six months ago and we still have not seen Qik on the iPhone App Store.

When I had my iPhone (2G) I only had a few "unauthorized" iPhone Apps on my iPhone that I used regularly, but because it was an unlocked (hacked) iPhone, I took the opportunity to try many "unauthorized" iPhone applications over the year an a half that I owned it. Now I have an official unlocked iPhone with AppleCare I am more reluctant to jailbreak if I don't have to.

Having said that, my decision of not jailbreaking may change overnight, as great iPhone Apps; both authorized and unauthorized, are released almost every day.

I hope this helps clarify some of the uncertainties people have for buying an iPhone 3G in Hong Kong and most importantly the reader, Jonathan's, questions.

PS: there is always a chance that Three's contract with Apple will end soon, as a result Apple will finally lower the price of the iPhone to a more reasonable price and begin selling it at Premium Authorized Resellers in Hong Kong. Also Apple may lower the price of existing models to make room for a higher end model to be released soon (most likely June 2009).

[Updated: February 8, 2009]


You may have read in forums and elsewhere about the "iPhone Carrier Update" dialog presented by iTunes each time the iPhone is connected to iTunes 7.7 or later. In the past I had suggested that if your iPhone is "carrier unlocked"; not connected to one of the Apple carrier partners in your country, you should not apply this update when Apple's dialog comes up.

The reason is because the "iPhone Carrier Update" will update settings relating to the "carrier partner(s)" within your iPhone, and if your iPhone was unlocked and your SIM card is not from one of the "carrier partner(s)" the APN settings (data settings) of your iPhone will be overridden, causing you to have to update these settings each time.


Apparently the highly anticipated Apple iPhone 3G will only be available to the selected few, at least in Hong Kong. Yesterday, O2 began announced that their pre-orders for the iPhone 3G had been filled and ask interested customer to return to their web site on July 10th to find information on new inventory and next availability.

Similar situation in Hong Kong with Apple's partner carrier, "3". I have inside sources informs me that their initial inventory of 500 Apple iPhone 3G had already been sold out 2 weeks ago. There was no limits placed on the number of phones each person were allow to purchase. Therefore, some of the selected few were able to purchase a dozen iPhone 3G, while the rest of us, under privileged in the eyes of Li Ka Shing's mobile carrier "3", will not be able to get an iPhone 3G on Friday, July 11th, even if I am willing to change carrier and choose one of the high tariff plans offered. Of course, I am not, so I am not too concern.

For the rest who are already a 3 customer or willing to switch carriers, I think this is very unfair and Apple HK should have been managed the situation better. Although, this sort of insiders privilege is a common occurrence in Hong Kong, Apple HK should have imposed a maximum purchase quantity so that as many individuals can share the Apple experience and privilege of owning an iPhone 3G on July 11th.