Did Apple just seed the end of cellular telephony? The short answer is that they probably did.
Here’s what happened last week: Apple unveiled their huge iOS10 release that now includes a third-party API for the green ‘phone’ app, meaning your regular phone calls if you use an iPhone. This means that any call service from a third-party app – say WhatsApp, Facebook, or Skype – will be able to work through the usual green phone button on Apple devices.
Using the green dialler for any app that wants it
So here’s what will happen in practice: If you for example want to use Skype, the Skype ID of the receiving party will be included in contacts, so that you can dial that person on Skype via the green phone app – just like it’s currently possible with FaceTime and regular phone numbers. All of this is of course not in place yet, but with the new API available it’s likely only a question of time before the app people get this set up.
The (eventual) end of the phone number is in sight
So what will be the impact of all of this? Well – first of all, you will be able to do nearly all of your calling over a data connection instead of cellular voice, which usually means that you will be using your Wi-Fi connection at home, at the office, or nearly everywhere else. This could also signal the eventual end of the phone number as such. And that’s not a small thing.
Another blow to carrier revenues?
If the mobile carriers’ battle against OTT (and Wi-Fi) was ever plausible, it seems that the new API signals game over at least as far as voice calling is concerned. It will take a while but the writing is pretty much on the wall. As a starting point you will not get mobility (meaning handoff, because standard Wi-Fi doesn’t support that) but gapless mobile/Wi-Fi handoff technology is readily available today. I’m betting that someone in the app-world will use precisely that to their advantage very soon.
It’s also ironic that less than 2 years ago, Apple launched Wi-Fi calling for carries – a solution that requires big infrastructure (core network) investments by carriers. The Apple native Wi-Fi calling feature set off a frenzy of Wi-Fi calling launches, carrier-style. The carrier version of Wi-Fi calling does support mobile/Wi-Fi handoff. But it may all be for nothing as the convenience of using WhatsApp and Skype calling on your iPhone (on Wi-Fi) starts to take off. And it will.
Below: Watch Apple unveil the API & new features on the ‘Phone’ app.