Twilio Client iOS SDK Puts VoIP In Any App, Turning iPads Into Call Centers

Cheap international calls, mobile gaming with simultaneous voice chat, distributed call centers. Developers can create these and more with Twilio’s voice client iOS SDK that launches publicly today. The software development kit allows any iOS app to send and receive voice calls over 3G or Wi-Fi for a fraction of the price of traditional calling.

I was actually briefed by Twilio over an iOS conference call app powered by the SDK (very cool), but the real fun begins when developers start surprising us with VoIP apps too crazy or disruptive to predict.

Twilio’s iOS SDK is such a doorway to innovation because it makes voice calling affordable for a much wider range of users. Traditional voice calls in the US cost 2 cents per minute, and in Europe can cost as much as 14 cents per minute. VoIP calls made through Twilio iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch SDK apps cost just 1/4 cent per line per minute, which developers can shoulder or pass on to their users.

Apps can call any standard or Twilio number and be instantly connected. If users want friends to be able to recognize them through caller ID when they reach out through an app, they can verify their number.

The Twilio client for web browsers was released in late June, but the iOS SDK’s product manager Thomas Schiavone tells me “that got a lot of mobile devs saying ‘what about me?'” The iOS SDK has been in beta testing for the last few months. In the meantime, Twilio raised a $17 million Series C round, and began expanding its web voice API across Europe.

Here are the first types of apps you can expect to see built on the Twilio iOS SDK:

  • Call centers – Anyone with a headset and iOS device could become their own call center, referencing CRM data on screen while having incoming customer service or other types of calls routed to their device
  • Mobile Skype alternatives
  • Conference calls – Instead of messing with unique dial-ins and passcodes, anyone can call a special Twilio number and have an app conference them in
  • Voice-enhanced mobile games – Imagine trash talking with friends as you compete
  • Travel apps – A hotel’s app could let you call to make reservations, check in, or speak to the concierge without needing a phone with a local SIM card
  • Dating apps – You could voice chat on your phone with potential matches without having to reveal your actual phone number
  • Social dialer – See the location and availability status of people before you call thanks to presence functionality, and choose who to call after sorting contacts by current relevance or social characteristics

Twilio-powered apps could undercut today’s call center solutions — an industry where enterprises spend billions a year on expensive hardware and voice calling. Existing clients like Salesforce and eBay could use Twilio-powered apps to slash call center overhead

A new wave of Android telecom apps won’t be far behind. Twilio is launching the beta of its Android voice client SDK today as well, and next will beef up its native mobile app APIs with SMS and video functionality.