Another interesting feature is the call recorder from a company called Pamela. Using it, you can record your conversations up to 15 minutes at a time. You can set it up to record every incoming and outgoing call automatically or have it ask you each time whether you want to record. Before Pamela starts recording, a voice states to everyone on the call that it's being recorded. This is not a feature you can turn off, because in many (if not most) states, it's illegal to record a conversation with another person without that person's consent.
In the realm of more fun--but less useful--features are the animated avatars and "lie detector" utility. If you're set up for video Skype calls, you can use the Crazy Talk extra to create personalized animated avatars. Webcam companies, including Creative, already incorporate this feature in many of their Webcams. The lie detector feature is made by a company called KishKish. It purports to measure stress in the voice of the person you're talking to, with the assumption that the more stressed the person sounds, the more likely he or she is lying to you. We did an ad hoc test of this feature, and it told us that the person talking to us was lying when he was actually just very excited and animated. Of course, this is for entertainment value only. While we found the extra features amusing and even useful, we didn't like the way each application opened in its own window. Before long, we found our desktop cluttered with Skype peripheral windows. In future versions, we'd like to see all of the features incorporated into a single window with tabs, which would keep the desktop much neater and the features much easier to find.
Another change to the Skype plan is the all-you-can-eat SkypeOut subscription. For $29.95 (or $14.95 if you sign up before January 31, 2007), you can make unlimited SkypeOut calls within the U.S. and Canada--quite a deal if you make a lot of calls. Through much of 2006, users were able to make unlimited SkypeOut calls for free, but the promotion was too good to last. While we like free better than paying $15, we have to admit that $15 for one year of unlimited calling is a vast improvement over Skype's previous per-minute rate. You'll still have to pay for the SkypeIn and Skype Voicemail features, though.
As for performance, we found no major changes to Skype's voice quality. You can read about our experiences with making Skype-to-Skype, SkypeIn, and SkypeOut calls in our review of Skype 2.