Skype Video Calling

If there is one service where Skype has been a true innovator and pioneer, it is Skype’s video calling. In July 2011 Skype reported that about 42% of all Skype calls are video calls.

Since the launch of Skype High Quality Video in November, 2007 Skype has set the benchmark for the combination of resolution, frames-per-second and required Internet connection upload speed. And Skype has expanded the platforms that can support video calling.

S4iPad.CallwithPhilWolff.240pxOn New Year’s Eve 2010, Skype launched video calling on Skype for iPhone; in the summer of 2011, Skype launched video calling on 22 models of Android phones. August 2011 saw the launch of video calling on the iPad (send/receive on iPad 2 with its camera options; receive only on the original iPad).

2011 saw a significant expansion of Skype for TV, available on Internet-enabled models of Panasonic, Sharp, Toshiba and Sony TV’s as well as BluRay players from Panasonic and Sony. According to a statement by Skype CEO Tony Bates in July 2011, Skype for TV has been embedded on over 50 million TV sets.

GroupVideoChat.15June11.250pxwIn January 2011, Skype launched Group Video Calling, supporting up to ten participants, each at VGA (640 x480) resolution. While the host must be using Skype for Windows or Skype for Mac, participants can also be on Skype for iPad 2, Skype for TV and Skype for iPhone (very low resolution). One key feature of Skype Group Video Calling is that it also supports Skype’s SILK superwideband audio, providing crystal clear voice conversations. Skype Group Video Calling requires a Skype Premium subscription which also includes Live Chat support and unlimited US/Canada voice calling to landlines and mobile phones.

In January 2011, Skype acquired Qik, well-respected for its smartphone video chat expertise. Spring 2011 saw the launch of two Qik Video Connect applications for the iPhone and Android.

Skype’s video calling on PC’s pioneered several features, with each contributing to the overall video call experience:

  • Resolution: VGA (High Quality Video, November 2007) or HD Video (720p, December 2010)
  • Frame rate: VGA resolution @ 30fps; HD resolution @ 22fps
  • Internet connection upload bandwidth requirements: VGA resolution >500 kpbs; HD resolution: > 1.2Mbps
  • Network connection adjustment: Skype works in the background to adjust to network connection conditions to optimize the video call quality.
  • Audio: Skype video calls use Skype’s SILK audio technology providing crystal clear, lifelike voice.

In practice it’s the combination of these features and specifications that have not been duplicated by any other video calling service and allow video calls to be made over any broadband Internet service with a minimum 500 kbps upload speed. Using the full screen display option certainly approaches life size images, especially on <20” displays; SILK audio makes it sounds like the other party is “in the room” (especially when using a headset).

Comparing High Quality Video and HD Video – notice both the aspect ratios (4:3 vs 16:9) and the maximum frames per second (fps) transmitted over the Internet connection:

BostonDV.HQVid.300px BostonDV.HDVid.300px

High Quality Video
VGA (640 x 480) @ 30 fps
Upload speed: >500 Kbps

HD Video
720p (1280 x 720) @ 22 fps
Upload speed: >1.2 Mbps

When taken to Full Screen mode, HD video calls are effectively telepresence quality; it’s as if the other party is across the desk from you.

The current (August 2011) status of Skype Video is:



Resolution @ fps

Upload Connection

High Quality Video Windows, Mac
Core 2 Duo
640 x 480 (VGA) @ 30fps >384 Kbps
HD Video Windows, Mac
Core 2 Duo
720p @ 22 fps >1.2 Mbps
> 1.0 Mbps?
Skype for TV (HD) Panasonic Internet-enabled TV’s & BluRay players
(HD only with other Panasonic, Skype for Windows/Mac)
720p @ 22 fps
640 x 480 (VGA) @ 30fps
> 1.2 Mbps
> 500 Kbps
Skype for TV (High Quality) Samsung 640 x 480 (VGA) @ 30 fps > 500 Kbps
Skype for TV (HD) Panasonic, Sharp, Toshiba Internet-enabled TV’s 720p @ 22fps >1.2Mbps
Skype for TV (HD, Comcast) Comcast adapter box and remote control on INFINITY service 720p @ 22 fps >1 Mbps
Skype for iPhone iPhone 3 GS/4
iPod Touch 4th gen
160 x 120 (QQVGA) @ 12 fps WiFi, 3G/HSPA+ (data plan required)
Skype for iPad iPad 2 (send/receive)
iPad 1 (receive only)
WiFi, 3G/HSPA+ (data plan required)
Skype for Android 22 models of Android Phones WiFi, 3G/HSPA+/4G (data plan required)
Skype Mobile with video (coming soon) Verizon supported 4G LTE phones TBA Verizon 4G (data plan required)

Webcams for Skype Video Calling

Skype video calls can be made using any webcam that is supported by Windows or Mac OS/X 5 or later, including the embedded webcams on MacBooks, Windows laptops and many display monitors. The resulting video quality will be satisfactory but not necessarily optimal.

FREETALK.Webcam4TVHowever, achieving the specifications above requires designated webcams that have been Skype-certified for High Quality Video or HD Video. With Skype for TV, each TV brand has its own unique designated webcam available through the Skype Store or at Panasonic, Toshiba, Sharp or Samsung dealerships.

Platform Specifications Webcam Vendors Models
Windows High Quality Video
HD Video
Webcam 9000 Pro
C310, C510, C910 and others
Everyman HD
Conference Webcam
N1, V1
Mac HD Video Logitech
MacBook, iMac
C910, C615
Embedded webcam on Mac’s with 2nd generation iCore processor (June 2011)
Panasonic HD Video Panasonic
TV Cam for Skype
Samsung C7000, C8000 High Quality Video FREETALK TALK-7180
Toshiba HD Video FREETALK TALK-7191 Conference HD Camera for Toshiba TV’s
Sharp HD Video FREETALK TALK-7191 Conference Camera for Sharp TV’s

Note: When considering Skype for TV, ensure that (i) the TV set being acquired is not simply Internet-enabled but also has the Skype application embedded and (ii) the webcam is compatible with that specific TV brand and model. TV vendors supporting Skype and hardware offering Skype for TV are changing rapidly; while we attempt to keep the Reference Guide up-to-date, it is best to ensure you are purchasing the appropriate combination, based either on what is available at the Skype Store or what can be demonstrated at a TV retailer.

Bottom Line: Skype continues to provide a unique video calling service combining the best of video and audio quality such that Skype Video Calls become as close as possible to a real life experience. With over 300 million minutes/day of Skype Video Calls (July 2011), Skype’s video calling represents the mass adoption of AT&T’s 1964 World’s Fair picture phone demonstration.

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