I received a Nokia N80i (Internet Edition) to evaluate a short while ago and at first I didn't think too much of the device because it seemed a bit chunky and the basic specs seemed much like the Nokia N93 with a 3 megapixel camera, integrated WiFi, and integrated Bluetooth. I also like the N73 form factor better than the N80i and never really used WiFi much on a mobile phone anyway so I didn't think that was really a major bonus feature. However, after recently reading a few blog entries linked to on the N80i Blogger Relations blog site and switching out my aging Cisco 678 DSL router for a new Comcast cable modem I discovered that WiFi can be an essential feature on smartphones and developers for the S60 platform are leading the way.
While web surfing via WiFi on a mobile phone is enjoyable because it is faster than the EDGE speeds I get with my carrier, the "killer" application for WiFi on a mobile phone is VoIP. I use Skype to record our MobileTechRoundup podcast and also while traveling to stay in touch with family. There still is no mobile S60 version of Skype and the Windows Mobile version is rather limited (only able to use the speakerphone to talk). After doing a bit of online research though I discovered that there are quite a few VoIP clients/utilities for the S60 platform and three that I tried on the devices I have were Fring, TruPhone, and Gizmo Project. Check out my image gallery for screenshots of these applications/services running on my devices.
|Image Gallery: Check out the S60 VoIP client comparison|
Fring is still in beta and there are a few buggy issues every now and then, but I found it gives me the most functionality I personally have been looking for at no cost. Fring allows you to connect to a WiFi hotspot or your carrier's data plan and then have the ability to call others on Fring, Skype, Google Talk, and MSN Messenger. You can also chat with people on Skype, Google Talk, or MSN Messenger so you do not need a chat client loaded on your device for these services. Skype Out calls can be made and since I paid the yearly US$15 fee in January this is a very cheap way to make calls from my mobile phone. I made a call to my friend Rafe in the UK via Google Talk and Fring and the call was clear and only had two small crackles in the 5 minute call. The chat client is a bit limited, but it works well for the most part. Jim made some comments on the Skype Journal that file transfers are not yet supported, but I personally do not have a desire to perform that function from my mobile anyways.
I tested Fring on a Nokia E61, Nokia N80i, and Nokia 93 and it works like a champ on all three. Fring actually prompted me to start using my E61 more since instant messaging is a much more pleasant experience with a full QWERTY keyboard. Your contacts appear in a single list, but as you select each contact the icons at the top highlight what service your friend is using and by then pressing the action button on your smartphone a call will be initiated. To start up an instant messenger chat session you first select Options and then Chat. There are a few settings you can manage as well and I found the application easy to setup and use.
You are supposed to be able to connect via WiFi or your carrier data plan, but I am using the cheap US$6 T-zones data access so I think this is limiting me from accessing the ports I need to use T-Mobile EDGE. I would like to go back to the US$20 unlimited EDGE data plan, but T-Mobile wants to force me to get the US$30 plan with WiFi and won't let me get the plan I had for over 3 years again. If you could use your carrier EDGE or 3G data plan, then you could seriously cut down the number of voice minutes by using Fring and Skype Out to make your calls. Fring is available for most all the Nokia Nseries and E series devices (some are in preview stage) and a few of the 66xx series.
The Nokia N80ie is a VoIP powerhouse and comes out of the box with support for Gizmo Project. You may be wondering where that support is and you will find it in the SIP and Internet Telephone settings on the device. As you can see on the Gizmo Project Nokia page there is support for the N80 Internet Edition, N800 and 770 Internet Tablets. Setup was a breeze on the N80i and then after selecting a contact or entering a number you simply select Options and then Internet call to initiate the VoIP call. Now remember that calls to other Gizmo Project members via Gizmo to Gizmo are free, but if you want to make calls to other phone lines there is a low fee for each call and you will have to add credit to your account to make these calls.
I also found a couple links showing how I could setup Gizmo Project on a Nokia E61. See this link for further help, but on my device registration kept failing so I was unable to get it working. It also appears that the N93 does not have the proper SIP functionality in the device so Gizmo Project doesn't work on it either.
Actually, the first VoIP client I tried on the N80ie was Truphone, but my DSL modem was causing issues with the VoIP path so I was unable to test it out. The support folks at Truphone were amazingly responsive and tried to help me get things working, even calling me back on my phone from the UK and they didn't know anything about my blogging or other connections so each customer can probably expect this type of wonderful service. After switching from DSL to cable I gave it another shot and everything worked like a champ. Truphone is currently available for the new Nokia E61i, E65, and E90 as well as the existing E60, E61, E70, and N80ie. They are also working on adding support for the N80, N91, N92, and N93 devices. I tried and confirmed that it works well on the N80ie and E61.
Truphone allows you to call other Truphone users for free and other phone lines for a low cost. Actually, US and other users outside the UK can make calls using Truphone to any number in the US and Canada for free until 31 March 2007 to try out the service. After that there will be no monthly charges, but a small per minute charge for calls (i.e. US to UK for 3.2 cents per minute). For a good discussion of more experiences using Truphone, check out this Alec Saunders blog entry.
To help make Truphone a more compelling VoIP option, they just recently added support for Google Talk. You can call your buddies via Google Talk for free and they can also actually call you if you give them your Truphone number. It is a bit cumbersome to call someone on Google Talk from a phone with a standard keypad, as detailed here, but if you add a person's Google Talk address to your Contacts list then the process is made much simpler.
I learned quite a bit after testing out these VoIP solutions and actually found links to even more clients that work on the S60 platform. While Windows Mobile is catching up to Nokia and the S60 a bit throughout the smartphone world, the S60 platform is way ahead of Windows Mobile in the VoIP arena and now we just need to get battery technology advanced enough to support keeping your WiFi radio turned on and connected whenever you are in range of a wireless signal. If you want to make low cost or free calls from your mobile phone I highly recommend you try out some of these new VoIP clients and spread the word about this functionality.
I also did not test incoming calls on any of the services so I can only comment on outgoing calls at this time, until I have a chance to conduct further testing. My primary interest was on outgoing calls, but in order to make the services more functional for everyone incoming calls should be supported and used as well.