iPhone users will get to make Internet calls over AT&T cellular network

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Users of Apple Inc.’s popular iPhone will now be able to save money by making Internet-based phone calls over AT&T’s cellular network.

Apple this week allowed new versions of several
Voice over Internet Protocol to begin working on the iPhone.
Previously, iPhone users needed a wireless Internet connection to make
these VoIP calls — but the new change will allow calls from anywhere
that receives a strong enough 3G cellular signal.

By using VoIP applications to sidestep the phone’s
normal calling software, iPhone owners could avoid using up their
monthly allocation of minutes from AT&T, potentially allowing them to choose cheaper plans.

A company called iCall Inc. said its app was the
first such service to be approved by Apple. iPhone users can download
the app and pay $10 for unlimited phone calls. Or they
can choose iCall’s free option, where calls are limited to 5 minutes
and users must listen to advertisements at the beginning of the call.

Calls made over the Internet are sometimes less
reliable, depending on the strength of the connection and the quality
of the calling service.

AT&T said in October
that it had taken steps necessary to allow iPhone users to make VoIP
calls over the cellular network, but Apple did not appear to approve
those apps until this week.

Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.

Riding the popularity of services such as Skype, Internet telephony has become a fast-growing way for users to make low cost domestic and international calls. Skype,
which says it often has as many as 20 million users online at once,
recently signaled its intention to submit its own 3G VoIP application
to the iPhone.

“We’ve got one up our sleeves,” the company said this month on its Web site.

(c) 2010, Los Angeles Times.

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