Apple FINALLY Challenges Skype

If the new iPhone can do anything, it can make waves, and wireless carriers are scrambling to figure out the right way to dance with this newest device. Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) FaceTime, which allows for video conferencing, was previously tethered to a Wi-Fi connection. But to the delight of users, the new iOS 6 supports FaceTime over cellular networks. This is great for users but stressful for carriers.

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AT&T (NYSE:T) is attracting a lot of attention right now because of an unpopular attempt to restrict FaceTime use to those with a “Mobile Share” plan. That is, a more expensive plan. Verizon (NYSE:VZ) allows FaceTime at no extra charge, regardless of the plan. Data is data. Sprint (NYSE:S) is following a similar path.

What’s most interesting here is how FaceTime will challenge Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) recent acquisition, Skype. FaceTime seamlessly integrates into the Apple ecosystem, but it’s stuck there. Users can only call other FaceTime users. Skype, on the other hand, is growing its membership by 40 percent every year. With Windows Phone 8 making a push into the mobile market, built-in Skype could make the Microsoft OS more appealing than the Apple OS.

Communication is the heart of what makes mobile valuable. Skype is way more ubiquitous than FaceTime right now, but if Apple opens up and allows calling between platforms, it could become a serious challenge. As it stands, FaceTime looks like a perk for those who already use the iPhone, and not a reason to switch over.

Shares of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) closed Friday up 1.22% at $691.28. Over the past month, Apple has risen 9.43%.

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