Thursday, 30 December 2010 19:41

3G or WiFi Video calls come to iPhone Skype AT LAST!!!

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Although Skype went through hell last week with a massive meltdown, Skype was clearly gearing up to stun and amaze us all with its new Skype video call version for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, something that works over 3G and Wi-Fi, in a clear challenge to the Wi-Fi only FaceTime - although Skype STILL doesn't work with Bluetooth!!!

Skype now lets iPhone users make and receive VIDEO calls, whether over 3G or Wi-Fi, and works even if you have an iPod Touch or iPad.

Naturally you'll need an iPhone 4 or 4th-generation iPod Touch with front facing camera if you want to see the person you're speaking to and for them to see you at the same time, but it works - whether you're calling from an iPhone to another iPhone, or whether the call is going to or from a PC to your chosen iDevice.

While Skype naturally advises a strong Wi-Fi connection on either end for the best results, I just made a video call from an iPhone 4 on Optus 3G in the state of New South Wales in Australia, to my editor's iPhone 4 on Vodafone 3G in the state of Victoria, in Australia, more than 1200 kilometres apart.

Both calls were done over the 3G network, although we did test Wi-Fi as well, and given that both the Optus and Vodafone networks aren't as strong as the Telstra network, the quality was surprisingly good and the video quite clear, although I think FaceTime video is slightly clearer. Either way, the quality was good, and if you scroll down below you'll see a screen shot of what the video between us looked like.

A call from an iPhone 3GS to an iPhone 4 or a PC resulted in the iPhone 3GS video being sent from the rear camera, which is quite normal - the iPhone 3GS has no front mounted camera. Likewise iPad users will only be able to receive video, but not send it - or at least, not until the iPad 2 comes out with its rumoured twin cameras, front and back, for photos, videos, FaceTime and now Skype video calls. 

Skype for iPhone (and iPod Touch and iPad) is now at version 3.0, with the App Store description noting the improvements as being:

- Make Skype to Skype video calls on WiFi or 3G (with the asterisk that 3G could mean that 'additional data charges may apply)
- Call Skype desktop users (Mac OS X or Windows) and other iPhone users.

NOTE: Although Skype does not mention the word 'Linux' on the App Store Skype listing, on page two you'll see that Skype for Linux can also receive and send Skype video calls.

Back to the App Store details:

- Two-way video calls supported on iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch 4th gen.
- Receive only video supported on iPad and iPod Touch 3rd gen with no camera.
- Make video calls in portrait and landscape
- Skype video calling requires iOS 4.0 or above.

Here's what a video call over 3G networks looked like.

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More information from Skype on its new 3G/WiFi video calling Skype on page two, please read on!


Ok, so what does Skype itself have to say about its new development?

Skype says that Skype 3.0 is available to download from the Apple App Store today, and that 'with approximately 25 million concurrent users logged into Skype at any given time, the new Skype for iPhone makes it easier than ever to share moments wherever you are.'

Skype naturally says that 'video calling significantly enhances the user experience of Skype for iPhone, which is one of the top five free iPhone apps in 2010 according to Apple. Now, users can make and receive free Skype-to-Skype calls, call mobiles and landlines around the world at very low rates, and now share more moments together with video on Skype for iPhone.'

Neil Stevens, general manager of Skype's consumer business, says in the press release that: 'With video calling representing approximately 40% of all Skype-to-Skype minutes for the first six months of 2010, our users have been eager to get Skype video calling on their mobile phones. By bringing video to mainstream users at their home or work via their desktops, on the go with their mobiles, or into their living room via their TV, Skype has made it possible for millions of people to share video moments wherever they are.'

Skype's press release then talks up the benefits of video calls, stating that: 'A video call evolves communication beyond transactional experiences to a shared experience where people can share any occasion with others wherever they are. Whether this is a military father watching the birth of his child while deployed abroad, loved ones communicating via sign language or work colleagues collaborating around the globe - the opportunities are endless.'

Aside from the Skype video call combinations we listed on page 1, Skype also says that 'Calls can be made between devices using the new Skype for iPhone app and desktops including Skype for Windows 4.2 and above, Skype for Mac 2.8 and above, Skype for Linux and ASUS Videophone.'

So, for more information, you can either go to the App Store and either download Skype for iPhone for the first time, update your existing Skype installation, or go the iPhone page at Skype's site for more information.

 

As always, Skype says that 'to get the best quality, Skype recommends a strong WiFi connection for video calling.'

Finally - Skype still doesn't work over a Bluetooth headset, something that FaceTime now does, from memory, so Skype - please fix this, I want Skype over Bluetooth!!! But thanks for video in the meantime.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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