My favourite thing about the iPad is that I can take it anywhere. My least favourite thing about the iPad is that I have to carry around my iPhone, too.
Since I bought an iPad, my dream has been to rid myself of the small brick in my pocket. Now, I feel like I am getting closer to living that dream.
The Software: Skype
Skype is a standard tool for me. I use it for:
- Group calls during online gaming sessions
- Long calls between friends who have Skype
- Video conferencing so the grandparents can see my son
- Text chat when audio interferes with my surroundings
I also tried out the pay-per-month unlimited calling to voice lines, but found that anyone I talked to on it also had Skype available.
Informal testing of the Microsoft LiveCAM HD on a Windows 7 PC vs. the iPad as-is resulted in equal audio quality results. The listener did not know that I had switched from one device to another. Yes, the iPad has a built in mic.
Skype sells phone numbers, too. With this, someone is able to call my Skype account from a standard phone. This is great! However, as of August 18th, 2010, I cannot get a Canadian number.
The Service: Ring2Skype.com
Ring2Skype is a free service, which allows you to assign phone numbers to your Skype account.
They offer the same thing as Skype, but the caveat is that I get an extension number, tacked on the end. That is 604-222-1234 ext 123. Many people are used to businesses having extensions, but it does not fly too well with calling from a contact list or forwarding from your real mobile number.
The big win is that Ring2Skype solves the problem in Step 1. Canadian numbers are available.
Even better, I can add multiple phone numbers! For example: My parents live in Winnipeg, so I added a 204 area code number. Now, they can call with no long distance concerns.
Note: In my minimal testing, audio quality is not as good as a regular mobile phone. I am not sure if this is because of the routing of Ring2Skype, or inherit in the Skype service. Skype is usually good though, so I think the former is at fault.
The Wall: Multitasking
Everything goes great until I go back to the home screen or use another app, on the iPad. When I do either of these things, Skype freezes in the background and I lose the call. It also means that I cannot receive calls!
This is why multitasking has value on a mobile device.
Unfortunately, the iOS 4 does not run on the iPad yet (I smell a conspiracy!)
The Solution: Backgrounder
I have played with Jailbreak utilities before on my iPhone 3G. I add useful tools, but in return, the phone is almost unbearably slow. The reason I attribute to this is the lack of RAM (128MB) and a process manager called SBSettings.
As of this writing, in the US, Jailbreaking your phone is now legal. I am sure that Apple will fight it, but here we are today and I can tell you where the real value is.
I used Jailbreakme.com to do the dirty work for me. It is the easiest tool I have tried. You can do it: go to the website with your iPad and slide the unlock switch at the bottom of the page. Done. Wow.
Note: Currently, you need to do the Jailbreak with an OS version of 3.2.1. Cydia has a patch for the PDF flaw available, if that is still a concern.
Now, follow these steps to put everything together:
- Go to the new Cydia icon.
- pick the GUI+command line option.
- Update everything when it asks.
- Touch Ã¢â‚¬Å“Featured PackagesÃ¢â‚¬Â
- Slide down to Ã¢â‚¬Å“Free Extensions.Ã¢â‚¬Â
- Select Ã¢â‚¬Å“BackgrounderÃ¢â‚¬Â and install that.
- Press the home button and your iPad will reboot (donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t panic!)
- Find the Backgrounder icon and press it.
- Select Ã¢â‚¬Å“OverridesÃ¢â‚¬Â
- Press the Ã¢â‚¬Å“AddÃ¢â‚¬Â button in the upper right corner.
- Find Skype, Press that.
- You are taken back to the Overrides app list.
- Select Skype from this list.
- Set Backgrounding Method to Ã¢â‚¬Å“BackgrounderÃ¢â‚¬Â
- Set all of the switches below to Ã¢â‚¬Å“ONÃ¢â‚¬Â
You now have Skype running as a foreground app (true multitasking!), unless you specifically shut it down.
When Skype is running, you will see a small round Ã¢â‚¬Å“wheelÃ¢â‚¬Â on the icon. Try to browse and call your Skype. Check!
Now, turn off the iPad. WaitÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ wait for itÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ okay, now call it. Voila!
Conclusion: Have I Met My Goal?
Yes, I have. I now have an iPad that I can use as a Ã¢â‚¬Å“realÃ¢â‚¬Â phone.
Unfortunately, I did find one more problem. I paired a Bluetooth headset with the iPad, but did not find a way to use it as the primary audio device for Skype.
This means that you have to use it as a speakerphone or connect the standard wired iPhone audio cable. I do not find this an elegant solution.
If you find solutions to this problem and a non-extension based Canadian phone number system, I want to hear about it!
Until then, I continue my quest for a unified mobile device!