For anyone old enough to remember when Microsoft and Apple REALLY hated each other, using Skype on an iPhone feels a little like trolling.
While the heat may have gone out of the war after Apple’s all-conquering millennial resurgence got it even with Microsoft for the sound beating it handed out in the 90s, there’s always going to be a little needle between the former wunderkinds-turned-establishment-standards.
The same battle lines remain drawn, even if the field has shifted to smartphones and tablets.
It’s form versus function.
And after being embarrassingly “Zuned” in their first attempt to beat Apple on its own turf, those with a little love for Mr. Gates’ team will be pleased to know we’re scoring the mobile video conferencing experience in Microsoft’s favor. Even when the fight is on Apple’s flagship device.
Using Skype on iOS
First things first. Skype is truly synonymous with video conferencing, so when you’re talking about using it on iOS you’re really talking about how it competes against Apple’s native VC service Facetime. Considering that 11 million of Skype’s 74 million users are already using it on iPhone that comparison is going well.
That’s an impressive number of converts given Facetime arrives ready to go on your iPhone. And that instant access is the biggest advantage Apple’s native VC service has over Skype. Your contacts are automatically loaded from your address book, whereas Skype makes you play the invite game–although your Skype contacts will come across automatically from another source should you login to an existing account from an iPhone.
Unfortunately for Apple, that’s about the only advantage of any real significance we’ve found when comparing the two.
Once loaded with contacts, Skype is as easy to launch and join on iOS as it ever was elsewhere. And, of course, it’s available to communicate with just about every conceivable VC device ever made, crossing from phone to PC to tablet with ease, and having no regard for device manufacturer.
Apple, on the other hand, is persisting with the isolationism that is designed to generate a feeling of exclusivity, and won’t let you make video calls using Facetime to other manufacturers’ hardware.
Further hurting Facetime’s case is the fact it won’t let you advance your video call beyond the one-on-one format. Skype, of course, can handle group chats and is even recommended as a third-party platform for such calls by Apple’s strongest supporters.
Given that the call quality is pretty similar between the two services over a wi-fi connection–Skype has a much broader, better service over mobile networks–the fact you can make groups calls and contact people on Windows PCs and Android phones means Skype gets the win here.
What’s more interesting is how the newcomers to the VC world are making both Facetime and Skype look a little dated.
Skype Calling Is Still Not Much Fun
Skype’s been Skype ever since it came into the Microsoft family in 2011. It’s added a few bells and whistles along the way, like the new instant voice language translator that sadly isn’t available on smartphones, or the bot search and chat functions that largely cling to the periphery of your iOS experience, and certainly won’t outshine any news and social apps you’ve already got on your phone.
But it still largely looks and links the way it always did.
What has changed is the video conferencing world around it.
Browser-based providers such as Join.me now allow all kinds of customization and WebRTC-powered connections that let people attend a VC meeting without joining the service at all.
The only real customizing you can do with Skype on iOS is to change your display name and image. And no one can be invited to join a Skype meeting unless they’re on that admittedly long list of current members.
Also, a number of providers now focus on the fun, social aspects of video calling, recognizing that people are no longer awed by video chat and are ready to see it do a little dance and make a little noise.
Tango, for instance, packs its free service with games, avatars, and social cold-calling and chat rooms to let the Facebook generation indulge their need for instant entertainment and an ever-expanding social circle.
Skype’s got none of that. Nor does it let you record calls without downloading a third-party app. What it does have is better security, more reliable call connections, and a vast, vast reserve of existing accounts.
And that’s what they hope you’ll be after when you tire of Facetime’s limited service.
Skype: The Best Basic Service for iPhone
In short, neither Skype nor Facetime is as much fun as their younger cousins, but at least the former lets you speak to more than one of your friends at a time–remember that even three people is more than two–so you needn’t be holding a town hall meeting to make use of group chat. And it doesn’t mind if one of them is not on board the Apple cart.
Which means that as long as people don’t mind making a trip to the App Store, it looks like Microsoft is going to record a small win over its rival right at the source of Apple’s most resounding overall victory, the iPhone.
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