Home Skype for iPhone: It’s Real and It’s Spectacular

Skype for iPhone: It’s Real and It’s Spectacular

I had about 3 story options on my plate to write about tonight. But I found myself constantly returning to the iTunes store and searching for Skype, over and over again. Finally, there it was: As promised by no less a personage than Om Malik himself, the official Skype iPhone client has arrived. Although video streaming is a no-show, both full IM and voice communication is supported directly over wireless networks. Plus there are a few additional touches specific to this client that make it really great.

First, let’s talk about the interface. In short, it’s about as close to the PC/Mac client in style and utility as it can possibly get. Contacts, instant messenger, dialing pad, call history and profile can all be accessed at any time via the navigation bar at the bottom. Here’s some more of the primary features:

  • Contacts can be listed alphabetically or by who is online.
  • You can see all ongoing chats or just new chat messages.
  • When calling out, there is a button that links to the iPhone address book.
  • Call history can be switched from everything to missed calls.
  • The info page lets you update your status (even with a photo!), access your profile, change your status, buy more credit and check your voicemail.

Rest assured the interface is slick and the app works as promised. But, I think the real reason why we are all so excited about this release over other Skype-enabled iPhone apps like Fring or Truphone is simply how much it works like its desktop-bound big brother that we know and love. Instant messaging chats just work. Group chats just work. Getting at-a-glance status on your Skype friends just works. The bottom line is, other apps may get the job done, but due to bad interface design, a critical missing feature, or trying to do too much, are not a pleasure to use. This client actually is a pleasure.

With all that said, it’s still not perfect. It’s better than everything else Skype-related on the iPhone, yes, but optimally it could support Skype SMS (though the carriers would probably never allow it), notification of new IMs when the app isn’t in use (hopefully coming shortly after the iPhone 3.0 firmware hits), and.. well, support for video. Why not? People were recording MMS videos with their cellphones in 2004. The Japanese have had dual-camera phones with live video streaming for quite a while now.

And yes, I do realize the camera is on the back of the iPhone, making it hard to use the screen and the cam at the same time. I don’t care. It’s time Apple realized people are willing to trade some battery life for the ability to record a short video and start allowing apps that support it. But, until that day comes, Skype for the iPhone is highly recommended. I have already put it up on the first page next to Tweetie and DVR Remote. You can find the link to Skype in the iTunes app store here.

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