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Skype for Android adds video calling

If you have an Android phone and you like to stare up your friends' noses when you call them, then ring the party bell, because Skype now lets you do just that with a new video-calling feature.

If you have an Android phone and you like to stare up your friends' noses when you call them, then ring the party bell and do a little jig, because Skype now lets you do just that. A new update to the Skype app for Android allows video calls to other Android phones, computers and iPhones.

Download the app from the Android market, or update your existing app, and video calls are on the cards -- but only from a select number of phones.

To start with the video-calling fun and games, you need to own an HTC Desire S, Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo,  Xperia Pro or Google Nexus S. If you have the right phone, you can call other video-calling devices, such as a laptop, tablet or iPhone.

To place a call, simply select 'video call' from a Skype contact. Sync your Skype contacts with your phone's contacts, and you can place a Skype call by tapping on a friend's face and choosing the Skype icon, or the Skype video icon for a video call. With no further ado, you can watch your girlfriend eating ice cream, as in the official video.

When you're on the call, you can see yourself in the bottom corner, and you can flip to your phone's other camera to show your caller what's around you.

We decided to test the app in a historic peace-making mission -- haaaands across the water, haaaands across the sea -- that sort of thing. We resolved to settle an age-old enmity by video calling an iPhone from an Android phone. In the grand tradition of both technology and peace-making missions, it didn't blinkin' work -- at first at least.

Eventually, though, we conquered flaky Wi-Fi, elusive 3G reception, and the wrong kind of leaves on the line to achieve a historic rapprochement between Apple hipster and little green robot.

As you can see, it was a special moment.

Skype video calls work over both 3G and Wi-Fi, which gives the app a headstart over Apple's FaceTime video-calling feature. FaceTime only works over Wi-Fi, and you can only call other Apple products, whether it's another iPhone, MacBook or iPad 2.

As well as video calling, there are all the usual features, including free calls over the Internet, cheap calls and texts to phones, and chatty instant messaging. The app syncs beautifully -- we had the same chat window open on our computer and on the Android app, and both stayed updated.  

Skype is planning to get the app in full working order for more Android phones in due course, so keep an eye out for updates.