What is so special about truphone?

Back in September several comments to Martin Geddes’ blog asked what is so unique about truphone?

What I don’t understand is what value does Truphone bring? If I have a $500 wi-fi enabled phone (which Truphone requires), what do I need them for? Can’t I just set up SIP credentials for a SIP account on the phone? What do I need Truphone for? One poster said:

The “software” that Truphone offers for the E-series is really just a program that automates the SIP setup on the phone. If you knew the settings you would not need the software at all.

Apparently the major value is Truphone automates the SIP setup and provides a SIP proxy/server/system that deals with the quirks and limitations of the Nokia SIP client. That seems like slim value-add. If Nokia fixes their bugs, do I still need Truphone? And won’t other services tweak their SIP servers to deal with these phones as the market emerges (as more of these high-end phones are out there)?

It looks like they also provide some software to improve the experience of finding and connecting to hotspots. That’s cool, but again, that sounds like something the phones themselves will do before too long. I guess I’m still not getting what is so special here.

How are they any different than the myriad SIP termination and origination companies out there?

Dean Bubley says it’s because Truphone is a mobile operator in the eyes of the UK regulator. This is why they can give customers a UK “mobile” number (one to which you can SMS, for instance).

So in short, Truphone appears to offer:

  1. Software to make it easier to program the SIP client in the E-series Wi-fi phone
  2. Software to make finding and connecting to hotspots easier on those phones
  3. A DID (number) for the SIP/Wi-fi half of the phone (UK or US only)
  4. A SIP termination service to place cheap calls via Wi-fi to PSTN numbers

I guess that’s nifty from a consumer perspective, but I’m not seeing what the fuss is all about. It seems there are dozens of companies that could offer the same thing and that a lot of the value they provide will become irrelevant as the phones themselves get better. They also lock you into their service for PSTN termination (just as do Skype, Gizmoproject and basically almost everyone else). Given the competive nature of SIP to PSTN termination it’s nice to be able to switch providers easily, or even to use multiple providers/accounts at the same time to get the best rates to each country. Otherwise I have to hope Truphone gives me competivie rates to everywhere I want to call.

I must be missing something.

5 comments for “What is so special about truphone?

  1. What does Virgin Mobile bring — the product is identical to existing cellular but with a different logo? It’s always tempting to look under the "product" and "technology" stones for the value, but in this case I think it’s really a case of marketing an existing capability to users (and making it simple and painless enough that they’ll tell their friends). As pundits, it’s nice to find something "clever", but the customers just want something that works packaged appropriately and given some distribution woompf.

  2. You have to view this in the context of a timeline. Truphone has been available for less than four months, and as yet nobody else offers the group of services that you so accurately describe. For sure others will catch up eventually, but by then Truphone will have moved on and will offer lots of additional functionality. I wish I could say more, but my Marketing Director would kill me…

  3. What does Truphone bring? If you are the lucky owner of one of the millions of compatible WiFi capable GSM handsets Truphone will bring you the ability to make and receive telephone calls over the internet in addition to the somewhat more expensive GSM infrastructure. Calls from PSTN to Truphone numbers are delivered over WiFi if the end user is within range of a normal private Access Point, or within a commercial hotspot; if not within range the call is handed off over the conventional GSM networks. This means that handsets work in many places that the mobile networks do not reach – my house (370 years old and in a beautiful rural setting in southern Wiltshire) is a ‘non-comms’ zone for GSM networks – but thanks to Truphone I can make and receive calls easily and without frying my brain with my Nokia N80 handset!

    What I really love about the offering is that in order to do this I do not have to carry around another handset – I only need one – and this is a sexy, fully featured device with e-mail push from our corporate Exchange server, a 3 Mega pixel camera, quad-band GSM, UMTS, FM radio, Bluetooth, MP3 player (with 2 GB flash RAM), full polyphonic, .WAV and .MP3 ring tones, video conferencing, address book (that syncs with Exchange over WiFi), podcasting application, live streaming, uPNP……. and I can use the IR to remote control the TV too!

    Oh – and at the moment there is also the FREE calls to 40 countries – over 2 BILLION PSTN phones – that can be called free of charge from my Nokia….. Best of all, it does not cost anything to sign up for the service and there is no monthly recurring charge. Probably a good enough reason to buy a sexy WiFi equipped phone?

  4. I have had truphone for almost a month now and i would not be without it. I live in a very rural area and not many cell phone carriers do well out here. Since I am also a wireless isp I offer service in 3 different towns over a very wide area and I can hookup easily with truphone to all my access points and quality is as good or better then any of the cell carriers whose signals do not reach out here. Bottom line on truphone is its easy to install and the easiest of all of them to use and has the best sound quality of any other sip phone programs I have tried previously. I use mine on the Nokia N80IE all the time, its the best.

  5. I have’nt tried truphone on my iphone but i have a question. Can i configure truphone to work with any sipserver. We have a sip server configured locally in my work location can i configure truphone on my iphone to work with it?

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