iPad as giant phone? Not with Skype

If you're hoping to jimmy-rig your iPad to make phone calls with Skype, think again.

So you're holding off on the iPad for the 3G version that arrives in a month, dreaming of placing VoIP calls from anywhere as an alternative to your phone. Just don't expect to do so with Skype, yet.

Skype's iPhone app got an update today that ensures compatibility with the iPad. I've tried it, and it works. The female Skype test call voice sounded crisp, and my words came over loud and clear. But Skype's app continues not to function over AT&T's 3G network.

Obviously, it's impossible to test 3G on existing Wi-Fi only iPads, but attempts to make a 3G call on the iPhone return this message: "You need WiFi to call over Skype. Skype calls over 3G networks are currently not allowed due to contractual restrictions."

It's anybody's guess what those contractual restrictions are, but my guess is this relates to Skype's deal with Verizon Wireless that allows several Blackberry and Android phones to make 3G VoIP calls without consuming minutes.

AT&T announced that VoIP would be allowed on its 3G network last October, and finally threw open the doors to iPhone apps in January. I haven't tried them all, but I was able to make a 3G call on the iPhone this morning using iCall, whose free service lets you place 5-minute, ad-supported calls to any number ($10 per month gets you unlimited talk time and a dedicated number).

In fairness, Skype spokesman Peter Parkes said in early February that it will support 3G on the iPhone "soon," and that "you can expect to hear more from us about Skype for iPad in due course."

A new timetable suggests that 3G Skype is still not right around the corner. "You can expect to hear more from us about an iPad app in the coming months as we now have our hands on actual iPads and can start tuning and testing," Parkes wrote in a recent blog post, but he didn't mention 3G at all.

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