Skype for iPhone 2.0: The End User Experience

Skype4iPhone.image_1[1] Over the past couple of days I have had the opportunity to complete calls using Skype for iPhone 2.0 over 3G to contacts in the U.K., the U.S. and Spain, not only while staying in one location but also at 100 km/hr crossing through several mobile phone cells along Canada’s busiest freeway that recently was equipped with a 3G/HSPA+ service by Rogers. Some of the outcomes:

Launching the application

First, we are still dealing with an iPhone that does not allow multi-tasking but Skype for iPhone only serves to build the anticipation of iPhone OS 4.0 and its multi-tasking feature. As a result you currently must be logged into the application to receive a call; not only that, each time you log in, it can take 30 – 45 seconds for your Contacts’ current “presence” status to appear. (And you need to ensure your own status is set to “Online”.)

“Near CD-quality voice”

Once the presence information is current, however, select a contact, make a call, get an answer and start the conversation. What follows is a recording of one of my first calls where Voxygen’s Dean Elwood set up a three party conference call via Skype for Windows on a PC. (Skype for iPhone itself cannot set up a multi=party conference call.) Pamela’s Call Recorder was used to make the recording. Listen for yourself.

Dean makes an important point during the call about how Skype’s SILK-based superwideband audio makes it much easier for him to understand all the various and several English accents he needs to deal with in the normal course of his business activity.

Note that, in order to maintain the audio integrity of the recording, no audio editors were used to filter out “ah’s” and “eh’s”, etc.

Moving Along the Freeway with Skype

CallQualityIndicator.S4iPhone1.2_0.160px First, for all those concerned safety advocates, I was not driving my car during these calls.

From Ontario’s 401 freeway (the main route between Toronto and Ottawa/Montreal) between Trenton and Cobourg, Ontario I made a 25 minute call to Andy Abramson who was on the I-5 in and around San Diego, California. At one point both sides had speakerphones going such that we had a four-party car-to-car conversation.

While providing the same crystal clear voice quality reported yesterday, the call also was sustained as we both passed through several cells of our respective networks (I could see the cell towers alongside the freeway). Let’s just say we were both traveling at or near the legal limit and there was no degradation of voice quality.

There was one point where we noticed a bit of fuzziness (along with an appropriate warning on the call quality indicator) but it recovered very quickly and the call connection was not lost. The other issue was not really a Skype issue but the volume had to be turned up a bit to overcome the automobile’s inherent background noise.

Battery Life

It’s still an issue. I found that leaving Skype for iPhone open continuously for over three to four hours would drain the battery. A significant challenge for iPhone OS 4.0 will continue to be battery life. It’s the one significant shortcoming I find with respect to overall iPhone performance.

Data Use

From initial observation, it would appear that about 2 minutes of a voice call will take up 1MB of data transfer. Simply a guideline but it can start to get a handle on what your data costs will be. I still would only recommend using Skype for iPhone over WiFi when roaming outside your home network.


Andy Abramson reports that his attempts to use a Bluetooth adapter while making a Skype for iPhone call have failed. More investigation and feedback required.

Bottom line: Skype for iPhone 2.0 has brings new performance benchmarks to the mobile voice calling experience, especially when it comes to voice quality. However, lack of background processing and improved battery life management still make it questionable as to whether one would rely totally on Skype for iPhone for all one’s mobile calling.

But it’s impeccable for making outbound calls to all your Skype contacts where you as the user have total control of the calling activity. And, of course, the call cost is also right.

It’s an Always-On Life

But the most difficult aspect to become accustomed to, especially as I was driving along the freeway today, was to be aware that one could always be connected to Skype whether via a WiFi access point or a wireless carrier, provided the battery had not been drained. I could follow Skype chat conversations, see others’ presence information and mood messages and, if appropriate, make a (currently free) voice call. There’s a psychological shift in thinking that has to be made.

Note:: Ontario has recently introduced laws that prohibit texting while driving as well as making voice calls other than handsfree calls. And the stats showed that texting while driving can be as dangerous as impaired driving. Pull over to the side of the road or turn over the driving to another party if you absolutely have to engage in or continue “that conversation”.

What have been your experiences with Skype for iPhone 2.0? Put them in the Comments and join the discussion.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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