Chris Kranky

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Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

Two drinks into me, a table of colleagues burst out laughing when I lamented that the motto for VoIP should be, “taking something that isn’t broken and breaking it.” The challenge for most engineers is that they start with some neat technology and start looking for a problem to solve. Which brings me to the subject of today’s “stupid idea”, TruPhone.

Truphone_1TruPhone is a SIP telephony client which you load on to (for the moment) Nokia N- or E-series telephones. These phones support Wi-Fi and when the phone is locked on to an access point, in theory, you can use TruPhone to make inexpensive telephone calls using Wi-Fi. Right out of the gate, TruPhone violates a number of consumer principles that I’ve often highlighted. I’m going to skip the narrative on just how few Nokia N- and E- phones there are and how even fewer the people know how to use Wi-Fi on these phones. I’m also going to rush by Consumer Rule #1, if you ask the consumer to do something (like download the client, assuming they can figure it out), they won’t unless they see incredible opportunity. Finally, I’m not going to touch on the fact that the typical person doesn’t need yet another telephone number (TruPhone gives you a new telephone new for your Wi-Fi account – like I need that?).

Instead, I’m going to focus on economics. Their pitch is that VoIP over Wi-Fi saves money. The question is, “Do you feel like you are paying too much for your wireless service?” You might always assume the answer is yes. But how much will TruPhone actually save you based upon the opportunities you have to use the service? Clearly for local or national calling, the hassle of locking on an access point and firing up the TruPhone client, simply isn’t worth it. I have a huge bucket of wireless minutes that I don’t use each month and don’t care that I don’t use them. Yeah, I should call my operator and change my plan, but see Rule #1 for why I haven’t.

It appears that TruPhone is just another effort to allow mobile phone users to call international destinations at a cheaper price. Right now TruPhone is offering free calling to a number of destinations, but this is just a come on, so take advantage if it makes sense to you. But for international calling, TruPhone rates really aren’t that great (for example, calls to India are $0.19 per minute), my service (I don’t work for them by the way) offers me rates of $0.12 and I don’t need a stupid Wi-Fi connection.

For all the noise about VoIP 2.0, this looks a lot like VoIP 0.9 to me. Make it different and make it better.