(This is a guest post by Michael Heller from ThisGreenMachine.com. The original article can be found at this link.)
If your news feed looks anything like mine, over half the Android news items from earlier this week had to do with Skype being freed from Verizon exclusivity. Unfortunately, that doesnít mean that Skype was freed from carrier control. Every story was quick to mention the caveat that in America, Skype will not be able to make calls over 3G. Itís a nice little reminder that American mobile carriers hold far too much power over our smartphone experience, and in their pursuit of profit, continue to stifle innovation. Androidís lead engineer Andy Rubin ďbelieves he has created an accelerated form of evolution, where the species diversifies and improves at hyperspeed.Ē And, in most respects that holds true. Android has grown by leaps and bounds in all aspects save one: being a phone.
With the explosion of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software and Internet enabled phones, we donít need minutes or SMS anymore. Carriers are still making a big deal over offering unlimited SMS, even while a single SMS message is only about 1 kb. I used almost 2 gigabytes of data over the air last month (without any tethering), which was covered by my unlimited data plan, and carriers think theyíre doing us a favor by offering unlimited SMS? We need data pipes and nothing more.
Instead of giving us technology that makes our smartphone experience better, we get gimped hardware like the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Tab,  which will not have voice capability in the US, because carriers want to be able to sell you a tablet and a phone. We also get a gimped Skype,  which is restricted to calling only on WiFi. Carriers may claim that such usage will put too much stress on their networks, but in reality, they just donít want people to realize that the current service model is already outdated. The carriers arenít even hiding it too well either. AT&T has been selling their ďMicroCellĒ for a long time as a way to ďboost receptionĒ in your home, but really itís just a VoIP connection. Having offered UMA-based WiFi calling on previous handsets, T-Mobile recently announced support for Android . Slowly, we are moving towards the day where you can buy a cell phone and just a data plan, but still get all the same service.
Many people thought/hoped that Google would be the company to push us in that direction, but so far they havenít done much more than test the waters and gather their arsenal. Rather than take on the mobile providers directly, Google has chosen to pick away from different angles. Google has all the tools to release a standalone, data-only, fully functioning phone. They have a great relationship with T-Mobile, the only company desperate enough to go along with this kind of plan. And, they have Google Voice.
Google Voice (GV) is the biggest piece of the puzzle, and a brilliant piece of maneuvering by Google. GV both undercuts long distance and SMS charges, while being completely integrated into Android phones. But, GV is merely a passthrough, meaning it still uses minutes on your mobile plan for voice calls, and therefore does not upset carriers too much. Google has also built video chat into Gmail; and, by combining GV with their Gizmo5 acquisition, added calling to phones from any computer with a camera and/or microphone from within Gmail. Now, there are rumors that the upcoming Google TV will also have the ability to make video calls,  and I wouldnít be surprised to see regular voice calls included as well.
Google has an uphill battle if they intend to reinvent the cable or phone industry. But, if Google TV can also be another device used to make voice calls, it could go a long way to showing the public where we can go with our mobile service plans. The technology is already here to make phone calls from any device, at an inexpensive price. Moving forward, more and more devices will gain the ability to make free/cheap calls. Each new device in this space loosens the hold carriers have over voice plans, making a data-only mobile option more viable. It would be nice if carriers got out of the way, and let our gadgets evolve, but if they wonít, luckily, you canít stop evolution.
References:  Engadget  Wired  Android Central  Daily Finance  CrunchGear