Universal Skype app enters 2011 with big update

Jan 3, 2011
Tech

While many of us were taking a break for the holidays last week, VoIP service Skype was busy rolling out a big update to its Skype app for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. I was pretty harsh on Skype when I reviewed its update back in June, so it was a nice surprise to be […]

While many of us were taking a break for the holidays last week, VoIP service Skype was busy rolling out a big update to its Skype app for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. I was pretty harsh on Skype when I reviewed its update back in June, so it was a nice surprise to be satisfied with the new features offered in version 3.0: Skype now offers users free video calling.

Apple’s FaceTime requires a Wi-Fi connection, but Skype supports Skype-to-Skype video calls over both Wi-Fi and 3G, and works equally well over both connections. FaceTime also requires that both parties be on an iPhone (a Mac version of FaceTime is in beta testing), but Skype only needs a Skype account — you can connect with desktop users (both Mac OS X and Windows) along with your iDevice-toting friends.

Users with iPhone 4 will have the best experience with Skype video as they can toggle between front and back cameras or even turn the camera off entirely, a feature lacking in FaceTime. Those without iPhone 4 are not overlooked, however. Two-way video is supported on iPhone 3GS and the latest iPod Touch, and users on iPad and third-gen. iPod Touches will be able to receive video, but not send.

The quality of Skype’s video appeared to be lower resolution than FaceTime offers, but the flexibility of the app makes quality a small sacrifice. I also found that my iPhone’s front camera streamed better imagery than the back HD camera, probably because of data size. Audio came with a slight delay when using headphones instead of a speakerphone, but the sound quality was clear through both options. In my tests, I experienced no dropped calls while actively video chatting, but did have one call fail during dialing.

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By far, Skype’s biggest draw of its new video feature is the support for use on 3G. FaceTime has some catching up to do.

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