Vonage's Killer iPhone app

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Vonage's Killer iPhone app

Last week I spoke with Vonage's Michael Tempora, Senior VP Product & Program Management about the launch of Vonage World and Visual Voicemail. The big news was "Vonage World" with unlimited calling across the world to over 60 countries, which covers 2/3 of the world's population (4.5 billion) - all for $24.99/month.

As an aside I also asked him if Vonage was working on an iPhone app. He said it was in the works but couldn't comment further. I was going to blog about it back on the 19th, but got busy preparing for ITEXPO. Speaking of which, I'm blogging this using Virgin America's GoGo wireless. Too bad it isn't free. Was $12.95 which was nearly the same price ($15) I had to pay to check a single bag. Whatever happened to the first bag is free? Anyway...

Sources have revealed that Vonage has submittd their app to Apple. Having a Vonage iPhone app combined with Vonage's World's global unlimited $24.99 plan could be a killer app that gives Vonage a shot in the arm. Imagine a SIP client on the iPhone that lets you call 60 countries - 2/3 of the world - as much as you want for just $24.99/month. Combine the large user base of iPhone users and the millions of Vonage users and what you could have is the most largely deployed WiFi VoIP phone on the planet! Forget about buying those standalone WiFi SIP or Skype phones which is another device you have to carry.

vonagepro-2.jpgBut it gets better... Vonage's current SIP client called Vonage Companion has unique technology which enables it to "share" the same SIP credentials with your ATA device connected to your home cordless phone system. Thus, you can accept an incoming call on your PC using Vonage Companion or answer the call using your regular analog phone connected to your SIP-compliant ATA. I discussed this single identity to multiple SIP devices with Vonage last year.

In a mid-2008 interview I had with Mary Grikas, Vonage's Executive Director of Device Development I asked, "What sort of technical challenges did you have having the same CallerID and the same phone number? Obviously, you are leveraging SIP and the ATA that sits at the home residence logs on with one set of SIP credentials and Vonage Companion logs on with different SIP credentials, but it's mapped on your back-end to the same phone number."

Mary responded, "That's really a great question because we actually had to put almost a whole new infrastructure in place with a lot of new equipment. And we actually have proxies that are just dedicated to Companion to handle those calls. We do differentiate between the home TA DID credential and we do have flag for Companion. That way we know, as you said on the back-end it's all mapped and then we know where the call originates. We know if a call originates from Companion versus originating from the TA." Mary continued, "That was a lot of work for our call processing team. They had to do a lot of work configuring that system and all the redundancy and mapping. It was a pretty big effort, but it's something we were committed to doing because we had such an overwhelming request from our customers to implement a feature like that.

So what does this mean for the iPhone & the Vonage app?

Well, since their single SIP identity technology is done on the back-end, you will have a Vonage iPhone app that does the same thing as Vonage Companion. Thus, you will be able to receive calls to your home phone directly on your iPhone using VoIP or of course you can answer the call on your home phone.. No more remembering to setup your home phone to call forward to your cell phone when traveling! Further, your outbound calls can use your home phone number's CallerID and use your unlimited bucket of VoIP minutes.

The real question will be if Apple allows the Vonage iPhone app to work over 3G. Don't hold your breath. They haven't allowed a single "official" VoIP app to work over 3G. Actually, I just remembered siphon for the iPhone allows you to turn on VoIP over 3G & Edge in the Settings screen in the app. How did that get past the Apple censors? Though, I only got siphone to work 1 time over 3G. Must be AT&T blocking port 5060 on their network.
Update: I just tried siphon in California at ITEXPO and then back here in Connecticut and siphon worked both times over AT&T's 3G data network. Maybe was just a hiccup that one time I was trying it and siphon didn't work. I can now make & receive VoIP calls over the 3G data connection through my corporate PBX. I don't get it though -- why is Apple allowing a 100% standard SIP client to run on the iPhone while limiting other VoIP clients (such as Skype - or even other SIP clients such as fring or Nimbuzz) to just WiFi?

Features I expect in the Vonage iPhone app:
  • Voicemail playback
  • Voicemail push notification
  • Send to Voicemail
  • Block caller
I'll see if I can get Vonage to commit to a tentative date. So stay tuned for the launch of the Vonage iPhone app.


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