UK-based Truphone, a VoIP service provider for Wifi/data enabled handsets, today unveils a special version for owners of the latest version of the iPod Touch. The move is significant. The software effectively turns the Touch into a mobile phone, if limited to calls over WiFi. But there will be plenty of young people and college students who will use the Touch now for calls over their campus networks.
For not only is the software free (available from the Apple store here), but the calls will be too: to other iPod touch owners, to customers of Truphone's Internet telephony service, and to Google Talk users. Other features are planned like calling to normal landlines, calling and IM to Skype and MSN, as well as Facebook and Twitter integration.
To make calls the Touch needs a headset and microphone like those for the iPhone or a microphone adaptor (Truphone will also be marketing an adaptor).
Truphone announced a £16.5 million ($32.7 million) second round of financing in April, adding to the £12.5 million($24.5 million) they raised a year ago. The $50+ million is in part used to fund
free very cheap calls initiated from between Wifi/data enabled handsets and/or computers, or cheap VoIP-to-anywhere calls, something which carriers have had an issue with, though they've been winning against carriers in court. Truphone has a technology advantage that allows for better sound quality and longer battery life.
Update: Of course competitors such as Jajah and Fring offer a similar kind of service to Truphone, though in particular Fring is going to attempt to offset costs and keep the service cheap by putting advertising onto chat screens. Plus some would argue that Fring's service is better as it also connects to Skype and works on Windows devices.