(Note there is a hotfilx upgrade for this version; more information here.)
Yesterday afternoon, for the first time, I was able to make a Skype-to-Skype call from my car using Skype for iPhone over a 3G/HSPA+ wireless service and the Bluetooth connection to my car audio system. I held a (legal) hands-free conversation with a contact in the U.K.; in fact at one point, while waiting to make a turn, I was able to use the rear-facing video camera for a few seconds where he saw, referring to the video quality, a “very fit” lady running down the sidewalk and across the intersection.
Yesterday Skype released new versions of Skype for iOS devices, namely Skype for iPhone and Skype for iPad. The main features promoted by Skype include anti-shake technology and the Bluetooth connectivity mentioned above. However, I also found a couple of additional changes:
- restoration of the ability to access the dial pad during a Skype-to-Skype call; this is necessary to work with PBX’s that can be called via a Skype for business SkypeID using Skype Connect.
- a new call management bar on Skype for iPhone that is more consistent with the call management bar on Skype for iPad and Skype for Mac.
While most of these are self-explanatory, the anti-shake technology probably is best explained through this video; basically it compensates for small movements of your hand while showing a video via the rear camera on the device.
As mentioned above I made a Skype-to-Skype call from my car to a U.K.-based contact where:
- the Bluetooth connection using my car’s audio system for the speaker/mic worked quite well
- there was crystal clear audio due to the use of Skype’s SILK codec technology
- the other party confirmed that the anti-shake technology appeared to be working for the ~30 seconds when I could use the rear webcam while managing hands-free driving (that’s the law in Ontario)
- one could access the dial pad
Three screen shots to show how the new call management bar works:
- Clicking on the blue “+” icon, second from the right, provides access to the dialpad and chat session
- Selecting the dial pad brings up the dial pad shown
- Clicking on the video camera icon allows selection of the front- or rear-facing camera on the device.
- Clicking on the center icon, initial image above, allows selection of the device’s internal speaker/mic or an external earpiece/mic connected via the 3.5mm audio jack
Four other points to note:
- The new version delivers advertising if you don’t have Skype credit or a Skype Calling Plan subscription; this expands a policy launched with the release of Skype for Mac 5.4 two weeks ago.
- A security issue on Skype for iPhone has been addressed; probably the one reported last week.
- This upgrade supports iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, 2nd and 3rd Generation iPod Touch, and both iPad and iPad 2, running iOS 4.
- During an earlier call to the same Contact between his iPhone and my Skype for Windows, the video transmitted from my PC started out at VGA resolution but dropped down to 160 x 120 resolution, probably to match more closely the 192 x 144 resolution that the iPhone delivers for video calling.
Bottom line: Skype for iPhone 3.5 addresses some user feedback issues, especially when it comes to the Bluetooth connectivity as well as a couple of housekeeping issues that had arisen with previous versions. The new Call Management bar also provides more consistency although it would also be useful if one could see call connection quality information, such as has appeared in previous versions.
It’s not quite at the point where I could say “Call James B. on Skype” whereas, using my BlackBerry, I can say “Call James B. mobile” in a totally hands free way. I had to park the car to launch the call via the
Skype client; for most of the call the front-facing camera showed the retracted windshield shades. It would also certainly be useful to have a mounting bracket above the dashboard to hold the iPhone such that the rear camera can show where you are going during a video call; otherwise one needs a passenger to hold the phone safely.
Note: A few hours after the release was announced Skype came out with a notification that there were a couple of issues with respect to loading Skype contacts – which I’ve noticed – and showing Skype credit. While Skype has provided a work around involving uninstalling and reinstalling the application, we should be expecting a hotfix release in the next couple of days to address these issues. Update – 28/9 evening – the hotfix update that resolves the contact sync issue is now available.