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Skype for Android review: Fast and reliable VoIP, video, and messaging

The refreshed Skype app for Android features a cleaner interface and easier access to conversations. But most importantly, the app is even faster and more stable than before.

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Jaymar Cabebe
Jaymar_Cabebe.jpg

Jaymar Cabebe

Former Associate Editor

Jaymar Cabebe covers mobile apps and Windows software for CNET. While he may be a former host of the Android Atlas Weekly podcast, he doesn't hate iOS or Mac. Jaymar has worked in online media since 2007.

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4 min read
Editors' note: This review was updated July 11, 2013, to cover the features added in the latest version.

The official Skype app for Android lets you place free voice and video calls to other Skype users, or, for a small charge, voice calls to landlines and mobile numbers. Further, the refreshed app sports a new interface with a focus on messaging, making it easier than ever to fire up a chat. Without question, though, its improvements in overall stability and speed make Skype 4.0 truly a remarkable update. The app runs more smoothly than it did in versions past, and overall it just feels a lot more solid. Unfortunately, though, what taints this otherwise impressive release is the fact that it has actually lost a few features that its previous version enjoyed. Read on to get the skinny.

skype_sidebyside.jpg
8.1

Skype for Android

The Good

<b>Skype</b> 4.0 for Android has fantastic audio quality and impressive video call quality. Overall the app runs smoothly and is noticeably more stable than before.

The Bad

Skype is still missing group video chats, and there are no more file transfers between users. Also, there's no way to switch between front-facing and rear-facing cameras during video calls.

The Bottom Line

Whether you're a Skype user or not, version 4.0's impressive video quality and stability make it a great option for your VoIP, video, and messaging needs.

Skype 4.0 ups video quality, stability, and more (pictures)

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Skype may seem like a complicated app, with its video, chatting, and landline-calling capabilities, but rest assured, it isn't. Its newly designed interface is decidedly tidy, with only three main tabs to house most of the app's functions.

With version 4.0's clear focus on messaging, the app now opens up directly to your recent conversations. From here, you can tap on a contact to jump directly to a conversation (instead of a profile page) and reply. Otherwise, you can swipe left to get to your favorite contacts, and swipe again to see all of your contacts. With the new design, Skype feels like a much lighter app that's meant for quickly firing off messages to friends. In fact, it now feels more like it's primarily a messaging app with voice and video capabilities rather than the other way around. And that's not a bad thing. But as good a messenger as the new Skype is, it is missing a few of its more advanced features that avid chatters might miss. For instance, the app no longer lets you send files to other users. While I personally didn't use this feature often, it was a convenience that many took advantage of.

Tap the avatar at the top of the screen to jump to your profile, where you can see your vital information (including Skype credits) and change your mood message (Skype's version of a status update). Here, you can also mark yourself as Available or Invisible.

Meanwhile, the tablet-optimized version of Skype splits the functions up similarly, but takes advantage of the larger screen real estate with a dual-panel interface. Overall, the Skype app is bright and minimal, and its easy enough to zip around its primary functions.

What's great about the Skype mobile app is that it lets you place calls just as easily as on the desktop. From the main screen, you can hit the call button and dial a number or from a conversation, all you have to do is hit either the phone or video button to place a call. Within a call, you can easily toggle video on and off with a single tap. Also, it's worth noting that you can have two-way voice calls with only one person transmitting video.

Improved video quality and easier access to chat conversations are among the changes in Skype 4.0. Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET

While engaged in a video call, you can easily mute or end a call, or jump to the recent messages that you've exchanged with that contact. What you can't do, though, is swap between front-facing and rear-facing cameras. Previously, you could do this with the touch of a button, but the feature seems to be missing from version 4.0. If a regular voice call comes in (from your cellular carrier) while you're on Skype, and you accept, your video call will automatically be placed on hold until you return, which is a nice touch.

In a previous review, I mentioned that that video quality on Skype was slightly pixelated and choppy. But with the updated app, that has completely changed. In version 4.0, video quality is clear and impressively smooth when on a strong Wi-Fi network. Also, the audio quality is just as crisp as before. While these qualities may change depending on the strength of your connection, it's still a noticeable upgrade over previous versions of the app.

Because Skype integrates with your Android address book, managing your contacts within the app is easy. You can sync Skype with all of your phone's contacts or simply add people manually.

My biggest issue with Skype is that it is still incapable of group video chats, which is a shame, since the feature is growing in popularity. With Google+ and its group-video Hangouts steadily improving, I would hope that Skype's developers are hard at work trying to perfect the feature for their product.

Skype for Android has come a long way from its early days as a clunky app that supported very few devices. Now, it's got a sleek design, fantastic audio quality, and impressive video quality. What's more, it's proven to be a great option for sending instant messages and SMS texts as well. With its reliable and stable performance, I'd say that Skype is a great option as not only a messaging app, but also a VoIP and video caller, provided, of course, your friends are on the platform, too.

skype_sidebyside.jpg
8.1

Skype for Android

Score Breakdown

Setup 10Features 6Interface 9Performance 9
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