• iCall: The First VoIP AppStore App

    It isn’t very often that an application comes around that redefines a platform, more often than not the platform redefines the applications. It is even less often that an application redefines an entire industry. Fortunately for us our passion is in the iPhone, a platform that, thanks to the developers jailbroken or official, constantly evolves and is redefined. On this permavolving platform there is a vast opportunity to redefine industries as well.

    Today I had the opportunity to peer into the next evolution of the iPhone and the next evolution of VoIP. I’m not talking about the shady pseudo functioning implementation of Skype from fring – not that those guys aren’t great, I just very rarely had a working call – I am talking about the next step in VoIP technology as a whole – iCall for iPhone.

    I’ve been working with the iCall crew for a couple of weeks now, starting out trying to get them to let me in with ad-hoc distribution. I talked with Arlo their CEO about why it has taken so long since we first saw the video back in June. At the time he told me that the applications in the AppStore where really more like applets and not industrial applications – he assured me that this would not be the case with iCall. I have to tell you, the man didn’t lie. There is no reality distortion field here just an absolutely incredible application.

    The first time you open the application you’ll be asked to pick a get a free local number to make and receive calls using the application. For me I chose one close to my new apartment, although you could pick one in a different location if need be. Once you’ve got your number go in and enter your cell number which assists in making the switch from cellular network to iCall’s VoIP.

    Now, unfortunately this doesn’t work quite like we all had thought (at least if you watched the [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNoq5w3mkMU"]video[/ame]) – one must have forwarding enabled to your iCall number in settings to switch from a cell call to VoIP.

    Andy of iCall explains –

    In order to transfer calls from GSM to WiFi, you must have forwarding enabled in "Settings". Additionally the call must be received at the new iCall number that we have assigned you. Below is a sample scenario:
    • You receive a call at your iCall number, but you are not logged into iCall
    • The call is automatically and transparently forwarded to the "My cell number" you have configured in iCall
    • You answer the call and initiate the conversation
    • You start iCall and are prompted to switch

    Unfortunately, last time we called AT&T and said "Hey, can we connect directly to your call switches and radios?" they said no  We'll call again next week.
    Individuals are charged for the call by AT&T, I would assume other carriers as well, for the initial connection of the call (so one minute if you transfer the call immediately/before 60 pass).

    Call Forwarding is included on all*AT&T and former AT&T Wireless rate plans. Forwarded calls are billed airtime from the time the call is answered until it is ended. Each call forwarded may receive, depending on your location, per minute/per call or interconnect charges based on where the call is forwarded. Long Distance charges apply if the call is forwarded to a long distance number. If you are on a former AT&T Wireless rate plan, call forwarding minutes*may not apply to your included minutes.
    Andy in response to my question, “So, when we enable forwarding in Settings are we charged the fee AT&T charges for normal forwarded calls or not?”

    Only for the portion of the call that is spent on your regular cell. Once the call is transferred to iCall, AT&T is not even aware of the call.

    Every call I have made with iCall, save for one, has been crystal clear for me and the recipient and vice versa on my family’s internet in Kansas City (I believe it is a 3Mbps connection from Time Warner, but I live in Chicago with Crapcast so what do I know).

    The application pulls all of your contacts (or you can do that lame dialing thing) up which makes it really easy to use and make calls with. Voicemail is also included with the application so you can get message while you can't answer the phone – awesome. When I get back to Chicago where WiFi is more ubiquitous I’ll definitely be checking it out.

    One of the iCall founders, Arlo Gilbert, took the time to respond to a few questions I had –

    Kevan (Me): When do you plan on submitting the app to Apple?

    Arlo: We intend to submit to Apple in the next week.

    K: What are you going to charge for the application? For the service?

    A: [For] The service [we] will offer a free trial period, 29.95 for the first month, 9.95 per month thereafter. The application download from the store will be free.

    and a very important question –

    K: Any hope of getting the app to work with an iPod Touch + Mic (we are a modification site after all )?

    A: We won't officially support any 3rd party or hacked hardware, but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work, somebody would have to be the brave soul to try it out though at their expense and risk.

    Risk. Expense. Hacking. These have never stopped us before.

    In the interim before the app is submitted, If you would like a call to hear how it sounds feel free to PM me with your phone number and I’ll give you a call.
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