Apple did an about-face today, reversing their stance on not allowing Voice Over IP (VOIP) calls from the iPhone over 3G. They must have cut a deal with AT&T to allow it.
Steve to AT&T
"Um, would you like the iPad data contract? Go fetch."
Sure, apps like Skype, Nimbuzz, Fring and their ilk allow the iPhone to make VOIP calls from the iPhone, but they were previously relegated to Wi-Fi only (see the old screenshot, pictured).
Today Apple updated its iPhone SDK to v.3.2 to allow VoIP applications to run over 3G data networks. Whee! The big question is how will AT&T's already suspect 3G handle the VOIP traffic, quality-wise. Your mileage may vary.
Props to iCall (App Store, free) for being the first app in the App Store to be able to make a VOIP call over 3G. I expect that Skype and the other VOIP app developers will follow suit, and that they'll also work on the iPad. The iPad has all the tools needed for VoIP calling—a built-in microphone, speaker, 3G, Wi-Fi, and apps.
Can Google Voice be far behind?
While the announcement is certainly exciting, it underscores my disappointment that Apple didn't include a camera in the iPad, eliminating the possibility of video conferencing on the device.
How long until someone develops a camera accessory for video calls? Will Apple block it?