Skype for iPhone review
Both the abuzz yesterday (or today, depending on which time zone you’re in) about the confirmed announcement of skype for iPhone launching today. Living in Europe, I’m up +6 hours ahead of the east coast – bonus!and non-iPhone world was
My thoughts have echoed so many other iPhone owners, “Hey, where’s my skype application?” and I’d tried a number of work arounds, but nothing that delivered voip. Fring is a great app for iPhone that will handle all your IM programs (think Adium for iPhone), including skype, but again, no voice features. So you can imagine my excitement when the news broke like wildfire across the net yesterday when rumors were confirmed and skype would be made available (for free no less) today.
To my surprise, upon entering the app store via iTunes, skype is not (yet) the top free app, and I had to do a little searching. Needless to say, there’s quite a few mentions of skype in the search results, but here’s the direct link to the skype app for iPhone.
Note: I am currently running the 3.0 firmware on my (obviously) jailed iPhone.
As with any iPhone application, installation is a breeze, literally a click and a password (if you have this option selected) away. A quick install and eject later, I fired up my shiny new skype for iPhone application. Sadly, I wasn’t able to grab a screenshot of the entry screen, but the folks at skype thoughtfully repeated their message about skype not being a replacement for a regular phone, and that emergency calls may not be made with skype (or any other voip service, for that matter). Not necessary, but a nice thing to do.
The skype for iPhone setup is very familiar to any user of the desktop version, and is appropriately styled the same way. Simply enter your user name and password, and you’re off to the races. No ‘unknown error’s thus far. Nothing but smooth sailing.
If you’ve used any other type of IM service on your iPhone, and/or are fairly familiar with the way iPhone lays out lists (think of your contacts book), the UI is instantly recognizable. Contacts are displayed alphabetically, and you have the option to display all contacts, or only those currently online. As with the desktop version, contacts’ display icons appear next to their name, along with their status.
As with any new toy, I wanted to really test just how far this tiny little app will take me. A quick view of my contacts list revealed that my friend Bree in Hawaii was still awake and online. Hawaii? Sure, I think that’s approximately half way around the world from where I am – looks like a suitable test location. And here’s where things started to get a bit rocky. First, Bree didn’t show up as online on the iPhone, but did show up on the desktop version. I sent her a message via the desktop, and her response showed both on the desktop version and the iPhone. Needless to say, the minute I got a response, poof! Bree’s now online. Perhaps I was a bit impatient, and didn’t give the system the proper amount of time to load all the data.
My initial call to Bree went through (technically), but I could not hear her, nor could she hear me. At this point the application froze, and I had to ‘home’ button, close and relaunch. Fair enough, it’s a first release; I’m willing to cut the Swedes some slack.
Our second attempt at a call can only be described by Borat as, “Great Success!” Voice quality was just as good if not better than the desktop version, and on par with actual phone call quality. We talked for about 5 minutes, all the while me moving about the house, closer and further away from the router. All good. As a point of comparison, I decided to hang up and call her back, but only using the 3G network this time. Third attempt worked like a charm. No lag, no dropped call, semi-instant connection. I’d almost go so far to say that skype for iPhone performed better on 3G than over my wireless connection. Although, to be fair, perhaps the application was suffering from stage fright, and that first misfire was the one and only bobble I’ll ever have (crossing fingers).
Just to put the distance question to the test, I gave a call to my buddy Olivier here in town, and low and behold, no misfires, instant connection, perfect voice quality. So maybe there is something to routing a call 10,000 miles away vs. 3. Either way, the application met my expectations.
Other than the first misfire while calling Hawaii, the skype for iPhone application works, and works quite well. Is it perfect? Yes/No. I’d love to give the application 5 stars, but the first bobble knocks off half a star. Given that the application is free and there’s a pretty good chance you’ve already got skype running on your desktop, there’s absolutely no reason this little app shouldn’t be sitting on the front page of your iPhone.
Kudos skype – it’s been a long time coming. Welcome to my phone.
Update: According to TechCrunch, within three short days, the skype for iPhone application has been downloaded over 1 million times.