Category: Social Networking
Seller: Skype Software S.a.r.l.
Requirements: iPhone 2.1
Compatibility: iPhone and iPod touch
File Size: 2.7MB
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
I’m going to be honest with you all; this was a hard product for me to test. First of all, it’s free, and it seems weird to assign a rating to a free app…like sending a food critic to a soup kitchen. But as I sit down to write this, Skype has 9,468 ratings and 2,468 written user reviews in the iTunes App Store. Those are some crazy numbers.
Second, I’m not a regular user of Skype. On my Mac, I have one person in my Skype account: the head honcho here at your Dabbledoo Network. I actually had to add people specifically to test Skype for the iPhone. But considering my limited experience will likely be no different from those who use Skype regularly, I feel pretty safe in saying that the iPhone is a logical Skype device, just be prepared for frustration.
Now, Skype does what you’d expect it to on the iPhone. You can use it to call other Skype accounts (on iPhone, computer, etc.) for free. Your Skype sessions don’t count towards your cell minutes. You can also call non-Skype lines, but you’ll have to pay for those calls with Skype credits. You can buy credits from within the app (it’ll launch Safari and take you to their online store).
If you have Skype voicemail, you will be able to access that from the my MyInfo window. (I’ve updated this from the original review. As one of our readers pointed out below, this feature is not currently active with Skype for iPhone, but should be coming in a future release.) Once active, as with Skype Credit, you will be able to access the Skype store directly from the app to set that up. Same goes for an online number, another paid feature. For a free service, Skype sure does make it easy to spend your money.
A status menu allows you to let others know whether you’re online, away or busy, same as Skype on your computer. When you launch your contact list, you’ll see their status, too. Tap the contact, and you’re taken to a screen from which you can call that person or send an instant message, depending upon how you and he are set up. I’d like for there to be a tap default or an icon from the contact list screen so I can just tap the person to make the call, rather than have to first access that person’s full contact sheet. It is handy, though, that you can elect to display all of your contacts or just those who are online.
Now, the instant message feature is particularly handy for two reasons. First, along with being more convenient than text messaging, instant messaging doesn’t count towards your monthly text cap. I only have 200 texts a month, so this is more useful to me. Second, Skype phone calls don’t work over 3G or Edge networks. WiFi only. Instant Messaging works over 3G, Edge, GPRS and WiFi, so it’s likely you’re going to be stuck with that option more often.
The calls themselves are fairly spotty. Although I’m used to Skype calls dropping when using the service on my Mac, it happened much more frequently with Skype for iPhone (using the same WiFi network as the Mac). In addition, if you navigate away from the calling menu, the call is placed on hold. I guess that’s better than hanging up. The same will happen if a low battery warning should pop up. I’m not sure what would happen if someone were to call my iPhone line while I’m on a Skype call, though. Because the app hangs up when you shut down Skype, I imagine accepting the iPhone call would kill your Skype call.
Skype for iPhone has a couple other nice features going for it. First, the interface and sounds are quite pleasant. Subtle. This is important, because you can’t customize them. I also like that you can import your contact list from the iPhone, instead of having to re-enter all of your contacts. You can also search the Skype Directory and add the results directly from there. This will send a request to your contact, which he’ll have to approve before you are given access. At least, I think that’s how it works. I sent a request to a fellow Appletell employee, and he sent one to me, and neither of us received the request on our phone.
You may be wondering why this would be useful on the iPod touch, since it has no microphone. First, the instant messaging works. Second, you can still use it to access your Skype voicemail and such, and third, when iPhone 3.0 rolls out, chances are there’ll be many BlueTooth microphones available for people to turn their iPod touch into a Skype-only phone.
So, it’s not as great as many Skype users will want it to be, but it does its job if the conditions are right (mainly, if you’re on a WiFi network). Not everyone seems to have the problem with dropped calls, in which case you’ll be happier with it than most.
As I said, though, there are people out there who rely on Skype as their main form of communication, and they’d be better at evaluating this than me. Honestly, though, you don’t need to listen to any of us. It’s free. Download it and give it a try, if you haven’t already. According to reports, it’s been downloaded over one million times in two days…and thankfully, none of these people are calling me.