Over the past week Skype has released Skype 4.5 for iPhone and iPad providing a reconfigured user experience in Portrait display on the iPad while addressing some user experience issues on both devices.
Skype 4.5 for iPad – the new Portrait UI experience
It starts with logging in. When I attempted to log into Skype with my Skype user name it reminded me that I had associated my Skype name with a Microsoft ID. While remaining an option to use either ID, using my Microsoft ID does include access to any Live Messenger contacts I had.
The changes in Portrait mode deal with the fact that the left Recent/People/History panel would be squished onto the left side of the display and was essentially useless for navigation. I always found myself rotating to landscape mode to get the full picture of the left panel.
With this iteration, Skype 4.5 for iPad now launches into a full screen “All Contacts” page when in Portrait mode. Then Skype for iPad invokes a gesture to proceed.
Swipe from the left side and you get the previous “People/Recent/History” panel overlaying the left side but with a full width view.
As for the “menu” bar at the top, the options are to select the “People/Recent/History” panel overlay via a touch selection, launch a dial pad and perform Search activities:
Selecting the “All” button brings up your “Lists” menu including options to filter the displayed Contacts to Online Contacts, Skype Contacts, Recent Contacts, your iPad Contacts and any Lists that you have built up using Skype for Windows Desktop or Skype for Mac.
iPad Contacts is one way to access your iCloud Contacts for making SkypeOut calls, provided you have an iCloud account. This option showed up automatically on installing Skype for iPad. iPad Contacts do not show up in any of the other Contact List options.
Selecting your account name at the top brings a Profile panel for accessing various settings, including details of “My Profile” and updating the mood message.
In addition to the Contacts directories, as in previous versions, the main screen may also contain individual Conversation logs, including chat conversations, or, if History is selected in the “People/Recent/History” panel, a listing of all your past conversations, any of which can be brought up by a simple touch selections.
Landscape mode remains unchanged with respect to always displaying the “Index” panel on the left sidebar and Contacts, Conversation logs and History on the right.
One of the annoying aspects of Skype for iPhone/iPad was that, in the “Recent” or “History” screens, the conversation logs would not be listed in chronological order going backwards in time. This has been addressed in Skype 4.5 for iPhone/iPad.
The new versions have also incorporated a feature of Skype for Windows Desktop where dropped calls can be recovered automatically. This has worked for me many times when using Skype for Windows Desktop; however, not always.
Finally, should you call an emergency number from Skype for iPhone the call will automatically be redirected to call out over the carrier’s voice channel for making calls from the iPhone.
Minor changes have also been made to improve the UI experience on the iPad Mini.
Bottom line: More of a maintenance release, the new Portrait mode UI in Skype for iPad does significantly improve navigation around Skype for iPad in this display mode. Otherwise, the changes are iterative but do improve the overall user experience in small ways.
One very annoying aspect, and this is probably an iOS 5/6 issue rather than a Skype issue: every time I leave Skype for iPad to go to another application, it appears I have to go through the entire auto-login process when returning to Skype. Maybe I am getting spoiled by the background processing feature of QNX on my PlayBook (and soon to come on my BlackBerrry Z10). This is not the experience when using Skype for iPhone.