VoIP apps like WhatsApp, Skype, etc, will now display incoming VoIP calls on iPhones as a standard call along with the default “Remind Me” and “Message” options. This was feature was announced by Apple for the latest version of iOS 10 during yesterday’s WWDC developer conference. Apart from answering calls, users can also manage contacts from VoIP calls in the iPhone’s Favorites and Recents views section.

CallKit API: In addition, Apple has released CallKit API that lets VoIP apps to integrate with the iPhone User Interface. The API will also has app extensions to enable call blocking and caller identification. The API for example, can be used as an extension on apps to associate a phone number with a name or can be used to create call-blocker app.

Microsoft VoIP integration on Windows Phone 8: Interestingly, Apple isn’t the first smartphone maker that masks VoIP calls as standard ones. Windows incorporated this on Windows Phone 8 update in June 2012.  Phones running Windows Phone 8 OS displays incoming Skype calls as standard calls; later WhatsApp calls were also masked as standard ones on Windows Phone in June 2015. Microsoft also allows third party developers to fully integrate their VoIP apps on Windows Phone dialer and contacts, and access to background tasks and notifications.

What Apple’s and Microsoft’s VoIP integration means in India

  1. Regulatory tussle between telcos and TRAI, DoT: A DoT amendment in April is seeking to change VoIP calling in India by allowing VoIP & VoLTE (Voice over LTE) users to make and receive calls to and from any non-IP based networks and vice-versa. However, telcos demand that VoIP apps should be regulated: Last month, the COAI, a lobbying association comprising largely of India’s GSM operators, apart from Google and Facebook, said in a letter to TRAI that VoIP apps like WhatsApp, Viber and Skype are violating the existing telecom licensing regime and are merely riding over networks owned by telecom companies. (MediaNama has copy of the letter). Earlier, COAI requested the DoT in a letter to stop operators from routing telephone calls over the internet, stating that app-based VoIP calls breach telecom license conditions; poses security risks and could generate losses to the national exchequer.
  2.  Private developers can use APIs to expand into new regions: The API integration offered by Microsoft and Apple can be used by private developers offering apps like Ringo which provides cheap calls, and nanu, which provides free VoIP calls for limited duration. Essentially, these apps are are expanding into newer countries directly, but limited to VoIP calling on iPhones or Windows Phones.
  3. Telcos could also tie up for VoIP integration with Apple: VoIP integration from Apple and Microsoft can be used on Reliance Jio’s yet to be launched JioJoin app which claims to provide voice calls to any phone number or landline via Cellular data and WiFi. Note that, when Tim Cook visited India, Apple and Reliance signed a long-term deal, which includes supplying over a million VoLTE iPhones that will work with Reliance Jio’s 4G network, according to this Economic Times report.

Image Credit: Flickr user Photo Giddy under CC BY-NC 2.0