Skype’s announcement describing its redesigned product as “even more delightful to use” may smack a bit of hyperbole, but we’re not ones to judge an app by its verbiage. So we took the recently released Skype for iPad (version 6.0) on a test spin to determine if the muss is worth the fuss. Here’s what we found.
The newly redesigned Skype for iPad brings the app closer in line with the iOS experience, having previously been something of an unwieldy mirror of the Windows Phone version. The interface is more intuitively laid out for the iOS crowd, even if it’s not exactly the kind of departure that will blow your mind.
Navigation is simpler, made possible through the inclusion of four tabs on the bottom of the screen that you can alternate between. The Recent tab pulls up those contacts you’ve most recently Skyped with. A separate Contacts tab displays all of your contacts in alphabetical order, or you can also sort by which contacts are currently online. The Call Phones tab pulls up all recent phone numbers you’ve dialed directly. The final tab, My Info, is where you access all of your settings, check to see how much Skype credit (if any) you have, and set your status to let people know if you’re available to talk or not. There’s also a social media-style “mood message” box you can use to let everyone know how you’re feeling, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Swipe gestures are now supported, enabling you to initiate a voice or video conversation directly from your list of contacts with greater ease. Sharing has also been improved, making it easier for you to send pictures, hyperlinks, and animated emoticons to your recipients. You can also send your location via voice and video calls. Setting up individual or group chats, calls and video sessions has also been simplified and is accomplished by tapping the plus icon at the top of the screen.
The updated app boasts enhanced search functionality that presumably makes it easier for you to find contacts, groups and “conversation content.” This might be something worth raving about if you’re a Skype power user with hundreds of contacts and a huge stockpile of direct chat messages, but it’s not something that’s likely to get occasional users too excited.
Skype’s latest attempt at besting FaceTime is a step in the right direction, but the fact remains that even the sleekest of interfaces can’t compete with what users ultimately desire: quality. Where that’s concerned, FaceTime continues to blow Skype out of the water with respect to clarity of audio and functionality. The only drawback here is that FaceTime can only be used to communicate with people on iOS devices. If you’re a die-hard Skype user, aren’t married to the iOS ecosystem, or have friends you like to video chat with who don’t have iOS devices, you’re probably going to want to stick with Skype. The latest version may not be everything your heart desires, but it still beats long distance phone rates.
As always, Skype 6.0 is available as a free download and requires iOS 7.0 or later. A separate version is also available for iPhone and iPod touch, as well as Android devices.