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Skype Wi-Fi iOS app lets you access the Internet on a per-minute basis

Skype has just released Skype Wi-Fi, a free iOS app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch that allows users to access more than one million paid Wi-Fi hotspots around the world, and pay for them via Skype Access.

Here's how it works: Let's say you're in Budapest, Hungary and you've got your AT&T iPhone 4 with you. You've got data roaming turned off because you don't want to get a huge bill, but you're at an airport that offers a Wi-Fi hotspot. However, the Wi-Fi hotspot costs money. Maybe you don't want to enter your credit card info in on the spot for security reasons, or maybe the instructions for how to pay are in a language you don't speak, or maybe the hotspot forces you to buy a day's access for $30. You can bypass all of that with Skype Access.

Simply launch Skype Wi-Fi and you'll see a list of paid Wi-Fi hotspots around you, along with their per minute price. Select the one you want to use and tap "Go Online." You've then got Wi-Fi Internet; it's that simple. Once connected, close the Skype Wi-Fi app and you'll be able to access the Internet however you want: through Safari, Mail, or various third-party apps. Best of all, you are charged only per minute the length of time connected, it doesn't matter how much data you use. Also, don't worry if you forget to disconnect. You're automatically logged off every 30 minutes unless you choose to stay connected and you can go offline at any time (even after only a minute).

Skype Wi-Fi seems like it might be a great way for international travelers to save a ton of money while accessing the Internet abroad. If you just need to log on to check your email for two minutes, it would only cost you about US$0.12 to do so, versus paying the standard $5-12 fee for connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot for a fixed amount of time at an airport, for example.

Skype Wi-Fi is not a universal app (meaning it isn't designed for the iPad) but it does run on the iPad in addition to the iPhone and iPod touch and is available today as a free download. We'll have to test it out going forward and see if it's as terrific a solution as it seems.

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