Skype is now available for more Android smartphones

by Eric Benderoff

Moving beyond its earlier deal with Verizon Wireless, Skype opens its service to most Android phones. But there's a U.S. catch: it's Wi-Fi only. Also in today's App Industry Roundup, eBook prices are rising while iPad sales outpace other historically significant consumer electronics.

Skype on the go

Hey, who needs the phone part of a smartphone anyway? If you live in a Wi-Fi cave, you don't.

Skype continues to put a footprint on every Internet-connected device, as it announced Tuesday that the web-based calling service is now available for Android phones. The Skype app is already available forthe Apple iThings -- iPhone, iPad and iPod touch -- so it was just a matter of time before it invaded the Android sphere.

The Skype product was introduced on the company's Big Blog, where restrictions and rules were mentioned: Skype calls are free over a Wi-Fi zone and can be only used via Wi-Fi in the U.S. Elsewhere, calls can be made over a mobile carrier's wireless network but data charges will apply.

Skype calls will work on Android 2.1 or higher, but the company also offers this warning: "Skype has been tested on HTC and Motorola devices with Android OS 2.1 and above. It may work on other Android phones, but we can’t guarantee full functionality or compatibility. We’re aware of some problems with the Samsung Galaxy S, and we’re looking to address these in the future."

Earlier this year, Skype announced a deal with Verizon Wireless to make calls over a 3G network, but no other U.S. carrier-specific deals have been announced.

Prices for ebooks rise

The New York Times reports a trend that one hopes will gain little traction: Two eBooks for Amazon's Kindle cost more than their hardcover versions. Kindle readers have noted pricing discrepancies recently, as publisher-priced books have started to appear at Amazon's e-book store. But this is the first time that new novels by popular writers -- Ken Follet and James Patterson -- cost more than Amazon's price for hardcover books.

Readers are not happy, the NYT reports, noting that they are giving negative reviews of the books based on price. Here's what one reader wrote in the Patterson Kindle review, which has two stars.

“Amazon’s bait-and-switched us here,” said Janice Dinse, 63, a medical transcriptionist. “When I first got my Kindle, all the books were $9.99. I’m not going to pay for a book on my Kindle that’s more than $9.99. I just refuse to do it. I could buy the hardcover for that if I go to Sam’s or Wal-Mart.”

Let's hope the publishers listen and offer more reasonable prices, as it will be difficult to explain how a product that is delivered electronically can cost more than one that is printed and shipped to a bookstore. All books don't need to be $9.99, as that poses challenges for authors to make money, but reasonable eBook costs are vital to the success of a useful new technology.

The iPad beats DVD sales rate

The iPad has become the fastest adopted consumer electronic gadget ever, outpacing the DVD playerand even Apple's own iPhone. According to Bernstein Research and reported by CNBC, Apple sold three million iPads "in the first 80 days after its April release and its current sales rate is about 4.5 million units per quarter."

In his research note, Colin McGranahan said “by any account, the iPad is a runaway success of unprecedented proportion.” It took five years for the DVD to reach the unit sales pace that the iPad reached in just its first quarter, he noted.

Of course it is hardly fair to compare iPad sales to the DVD. When the DVD was introduced, Americans were swimming in VHS players and a library of tapes. People didn't rush out to invest in a new technology that relegated hours and hours of family movies to boxes in the basement. Still today, regular readers of Q&A columns from a consumer tech writers can tell you that a high percentage of questions ask about converted VHS tapes to a digital format.

The iPad is a hit and an entirely new category -- one that is clearly growing quickly: "At this current rate, the iPad will pass gaming hardware and the cellular phone to become the 4th biggest consumer electronics category with estimated sales of more than $9 billion in the U.S. next year, according to Bernstein. TVs, smart phones and notebook PCs are the current three largest categories," writes CNBC.