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.