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Summary:

I got my hands on an early version of the Skype app for the iPhone a few hours ago. I simply installed it on a borrowed iPhone, signed in using my existing Skype username and password, and I was able to start using it within seconds. It’s an attractive and almost perfect adaptation of the desktop version of Skype; the user interface is intuitive, simple and easy to navigate.

UPDATED: In a few short hours, you will be able to download the native Skype iPhone client and install it on your iPhones and iPod Touch devices. And when you do, you’ll be able to replicate almost all of Skype’s functions. The reason I say almost is because the iPhone version of the app doesn’t support video.

When I got my hands on an early version of the app a few hours ago, I simply installed it on a borrowed iPhone, signed in using my existing Skype username and password, and I was able to start using it within seconds. It’s an attractive and almost perfect adaptation of the desktop version of Skype; the user interface is intuitive, simple and easy to navigate. And it offers a number of pleasant surprises, such as the ability to attach photos to your contacts by way of the iPhone’s built-in camera. You can also toggle between all your contacts and just those online, and adding new contacts is pretty simple.

Of course, what really matters about this Skype app is its communication quality. To that end, a call I made to a friend in Israel sounded better than a regular mobile phone call. Few of the calls I made got dropped, and those that were can be attributed more to network congestion than to Skype. Update: This free app only works on Wi-Fi, not 3G networks.

It helps that we have a lot of bandwidth here in the office, which is always good when making Skype calls. I placed a couple of SkypeOut calls as well, and while the quality was good, it wasn’t as clear as Skype-to-Skype calls. The SkypeIn calls worked as advertised for me as well. I was most impressed with the Skype IM, which is the primary way I stay in touch with my friends in Europe and Asia. I almost forgot how fast I can type on the iPhone, even despite the touchscreen.

I only had a problem when I started chatting with more than one person at a time, as I had to constantly toggle between them. But at least the chat icon in the navigation bar was there to tell me how many chats I had waiting for me.

Many of you responded to my initial post about this Skype iPhone app by wondering how it would impact the iPhone’s battery. Well it’s been about three hours and no substantial impact has been made to the battery yet. Of course, that might change once I start incessantly calling people. On the iPod Touch, things are not going that great; Skype is running down the battery pretty fast.

My Verdict: For those of you that use Skype on a daily basis and own an iPhone, this could very quickly become the simplest way to make long-distance calls. And I’m predicting a big upsurge in Skype as an “IM client” with this release.

To Skype developers who worked on this product, I have two words: Great work! Of course, it would be even better if you got it launched on the BlackBerry so that I could use it on my Curve 8900.

If you have any more questions, please let me know. I will do my best to answer them.

By Om Malik

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  1. nice review OM
    started up the iPhone for first time in 6 weeks to get this app tomorrow.
    looking forward to trying it
    Blackberry release is 24th May (I think)

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    1. First time in six weeks? Why do you have one if you dont use it?

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    2. I am Looking to update my Phone. Is the i phone to be up updated or am I buying old technology today by buying the i phone.

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    3. DON’T USE THIS CLIENT!

      It looks like their security sucks. I downloaded it 24 hours ago, logged in and now I find that my Skype password and registered email addy have “changed” – presumably to something Ukranian! Oh, and of course there is money missing from my bank account

      Leave this sucker alone till Skype can spell ‘security’!!!

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  2. nice, tomorrow I will start making calls to my parents who are visiting India to test the voice quality against the desktop client……exciting news for sure.

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  3. @Om,

    What will AT&T and other iPhone carriers think of Skype on the iPhone?

    Best,

    Curtis

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    1. I think this is not going to be that much of an issue since it is only going over WiFi. If it started to fly over 3G, then things would get interesting to be honest.

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      1. Looks like it’s already happening!

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      2. Hello Om,

        Any issues with contacts and not being able to get uploaded to the iphone app? I am unable to load my contacts..

        Thanks,
        H

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    2. I would imagine that this ban is in Apple’s contract with these carriers. I doubt their ban on VOIP apps working over cellular data connections is just a company policy.

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      1. I am trying to decide between a Nokia N810 and I-phone for when I travel. I assume you have to get a plan through At&T with the I-phone or touch to get skype? Just trying to figure out the cheapest way to keep in touch around the world.

        Thanks!

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      2. No plan is required for Skype to work. Indeed it will not work (for calls) over a cellular connection — only WiFi. If you’re not using the “phone” portion of the iPhone, there’s not much sense in paying a premium for an unlocked iPhone over just getting an iPod touch — except that you’ll have to use a wired headset to make calls with the iPod touch over Skype — and the iPhone comes with a camera.

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  4. Hey Om, I’m really excited to hear this news. This could disrupt a lot of telephony models and increase competition in the mobile market.

    Are you able to make calls over the iPhone’s data connection or is Wi-Fi required?

    What, would you say, is the ratio of calls on the skype-out test that were dropped versus received?

    Thanks,
    Bryce

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    1. Skype on iPhone 2.2 works over 3G with VPN without any jailbreaks :)

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  5. Great review. I look forward to Skype bigtime!

    I also agree with you on the IM aspect. I think for steady Skype users, already it’s their favourite IM tool on their computer, killing of ex. MSN. And why should anything be different on the iPhone :-)

    Br,
    Rasmus

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  6. @Curtis
    I don’t think AT&T will mind that much because it’s Wi-Fi only. Most people still use the majority of their voice minutes on the go, and there are multiple other VoIP apps in the App Store.

    Nice review Om, I’m just curious if you’ve run into the limitations yet (no voicemail, or conference calls).

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    1. @Marin,

      Thanks for the point on voice usage on the go. I wasn’t aware that the usage difference was notable.

      Best,

      Curtis

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  7. Hardeep Singh Dang Monday, March 30, 2009

    hey Om,

    U broke the news earlier that its coming and its now here for Iphone. but do U think Symbian Client ia also coming soon. I mean Windows mobile is upported already, Iphone now and Blackberry soon. So Symbian app cant be far behind. Of course they have a Java app but something even better like truphone or Fring?

    is that coming too?

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    1. Hardeep

      I am told they will introduce the Blackberry client before the Symbian client.

      When is that going to happen? My guess is Summer 2009.

      Cheers

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  8. So how exactly does the current version work? do you need to keep skype on all the time to receive calls ? (if so, then you can’t use the phone for anything else as switching would kill skype). Or does it use the new ‘push notification’ system of SDK 3.0 (I doubt that) which might allow skype to wake up on incoming skype call?

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  9. Been waiting for this! Thanks for the news Om!

    I do all my business calling with Skype today, and much of IM convos too. Having the ability to do so away from my desktop – great news! Wi-Fi only is a bummer… but not a blocker.

    Incidentally, for those who are just using IM and not voice, I like Palringo which is a good multi-client and even works over EDGE.

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  10. Om, nice review, and I’m pleased to hear about the battery situation. Question for you – did you try it with any multi-user groupchats? Or with any (multi-user) public chats? That is the single biggest thing I am personally looking for in the Skype for iPhone app.

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