Skype for iPhone gets multitasking, ditches hated 3G-calling fee

An update to Skype for iPhone lets users receive incoming calls while on other apps, and officially does away with Skype's plan for subscription calling.

Skype for iPhone gets multitasking
Skype for iPhone accepts incoming calls and chats even when you're not in Skype. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Individuals aren't always right, and neither are companies, which is why we heartily appreciate when corporations gracefully address their errors --preferably while capitulating to user demands.

A minor update to Skype for iPhone (now version 2.0.1) reverses Skype's decision to charge for calls over 3G, Skype wrote in a Wednesday blog post.

Late last May, a major update to Skype 2.0 for iPhone finally introduced the oft-requested feature of placing Skype calls over 3G in addition to over Wi-Fi, a capability that Apple had unlocked months before.

Skype, however, presented the 3G calling feature as a double-edged sword, offering it as a free trial of what would by August 2010 become a paid subscription. Skype users railed against the proposed subscription model, and we can't blame them--we didn't like it either.

Skype's blogged announcement only vaguely referenced its earlier subscription blunder, saying that

"...better call quality and better availability (which is achieved with an app capable of multitasking and/or making calls over 3G) led to increased call frequency and longer calls."

The blog post also mentioned that due to some operators' move to tiered pricing models, "we no longer have plans to charge a supplement to make calls over 3G."

While Skype is vague about its reasons for pulling its premium 3G calling price plan, we suspect the present user backlash and fear of future outrage to be the cause. Since some carriers have been discussing capping their all-you-can-eat data plans and charging more for greater data usage, additional Skype costs on top of increased carrier bills could win Skype more enemies than friends.

Skype for iPhone
As with a phone call, Skype's multitasking feature for iPhone keeps calls active while you navigate around. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

In addition to keeping Skype free for 3G and Wi-Fi calling, the update also adds multitasking, another crowd-pleasing feature. 

Callers have groused about Skype's incapability to push through incoming calls if the Skype app is closed. Wednesday's update now pops up a notification when Skype buddies send you an IM or incoming call, even when you're using other apps.

The multitasking features, which require iOS 4, conversely let you use other apps while on a Skype call. You'll need an iPhone 4, an iPhone 3GS, or a third-generation iPod Touch (32GB and 64GB) to get the benefit of multitasking.

As another tweak, Skype for iPhone 4 has updated graphics that take advantage of the phone's Retina Display.

 

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