Vonage, the company that took VoIP mainstream, announced approval and began seeking beta testers for its iPhone mobile VoIP application Wednesday, in a move that may do wonders for the company’s brand awareness, even if it promises little that can’t already be done with Apple’s popular smartphone.
Remember Vonage? How that infectious boop boobee doop boop tone from all those television commercials stuck in your head a few years ago?
Well, Vonage executives needed to rekindle those memories and bring the once-rising VoIP service’s brand image back to your frontal lobe. Master marketers that they are, they chose for a vehicle what is arguably among the most visible marketing platforms in all of creation – Apple’s iTunes App Store.
Value of Vonage’s stock rose 36% over just three days last week in the wake of the company’s announcement that it had submitted an iPhone app to Apple, and Wednesday’s approval once again has Vonage’s name on the lips of many who once tied the promise of consumer VoIP to its fortunes.
Few may realize, however, that it’s been possible to use Vonage with the iPhone for some time with previously approved applications such as fring or that what Vonage has done has far more to do with branding than it does with telecommunications innovation.
The likely effect of Vonage coming to the App Store is a deluge of smaller VoIP providers will soon rush standalone apps to Apple just to keep up from a marketing standpoint, and once more the promise of free and reduced rate international voice calls will ring throughout the mobile universe.
Few details about the features of Vonage’s app have yet to emerge, but it’s unlikely the company will offer anything not already on offer from Skype or Truphone, two of the more popular VoIP dialers available for the iPhone.
What is likely is that Apple will see increased pressure on many fronts to allow these VoIP apps to offer functionality that is not limited to WiFi networks – as is presently the case with any app serving VoIP on the iPhone – and to open up cell carriers’ 3G data networks to VoIP.
It’s also likely that Apple and AT&T will continue to argue, for their own reasons, that opening up 3G to VoIP is not such a good idea, but as Vonage and the coming wave of VoIP providers herald consumer demand for mobile VoIP capability, it’s clear the computer company and the cell carrier will have a hard time holding the line much longer.