updated 05:25 pm EDT, Wed August 3, 2011
Vonage Time to Call uses iTunes to buy call time
Vonage staked out a first on Wednesday with an iPhone voice over IP app that uses in-app purchases. Time to Call (free, App Store) can make calls to real-world numbers by buying calls in blocks of 15 minutes. Prices range from 99 cents to $2 for about 100 common countries and peak at $10 for 90 more difficult to reach countries. As iTunes handles the infrastructure, users don't have to be Vonage subscribers and can pay with whatever they already use on Apple's store.
The app makes no distinction between reaching cellular and landline customers. Calls from Canada and the US can go out on both 3G and Wi-Fi. About 85 other countries support Time to Call as well, but some of these may not have the option of using 3G.
Android users will get a version of the app later this year, Vonage said. Other platforms weren't mentioned.
In-app payments have usually been relied on for media and more recently subscriptions. Until now, though, they have rarely ever been used directly for service. Vonage, which has moved much of its emphasis to mobile away from its original roots in landline-based VoIP, is likely hoping to create a unique alternative to Skype built more around phones than the desktop.