Months after sharing its intentions to launch an iPhone-only version of Skype, Skype for iPhone is officially here--almost. The free, native VoIP client for iPhones and iPod Touches will be available in Apple's iTunes store sometime on Tuesday, March 31, 2009.
Skype's sign-in screen looks similar to its desktop client and other mobile versions, but many of the similarities stop here.
From this point on, the interface comes in one flavor: Apple. Skype's engineers opted for a theme consistent with Apple's now-signature look. In the Contacts screen, you can filter friends alphabetically or by seeing who's currently online.
Skype for iPhone lets you drill down into a buddy's profile to read their status and initiate a call or chat. It also helpfully clues you in to their local time zone so you don't embarrassingly call them at 6:00 a.m. thinking it's actually 8:00 a.m.
The chatting screen also features filtering capabilities so you can view a history of chats or just focus on the new conversations coming in. A red notification badge alerts you to incoming chats when you're busy checking other screens.
The conversation window is nothing short of intuitive, with the iPhone's keyboard predictably sliding up when you begin typing a message. Skype for iPhone also supports emoticons.
When a buddy calls, their avatar image takes up the screen throughout the duration of the talk. Skype for iPhone will not currently accept more than one incoming call.
Tapping the screen once during a call pulls up four options--mute the outbound audio on your end, engage speakerphone, pull up the dial pad, or put the call on hold--something you may do for a moment while checking in with another pal on a different screen.
While you won't be able to create a new group from Skype for iPhone or initiate a conference call, you will be able to accept conference calls with your buddies. We hope Skype lets you begin conference calls in the next version.
Like all the mobile and desktop versions, Skype for iPhone displays your call and chat history for review.
The My Info screen is Skype for iPhone's management hub, where you'll be able to set your status, change your avatar, edit your profile, and follow shortcut links that let you purchase Skype Out credit and access your Skype voic e-mail in Safari. Of course, the Sarafi links are better than nothing, but we'd like to see native support for Skype Credit and voice mail within the application.
One of the best features in Skype for iPhone triggers the iPhone's camera, so you can replace your avatar image with a new picture. Of course, iPod Touch owners won't be able to take a snapshot, since those devices lack built-in cameras.