Video Hands-On: (Unofficial) Skype Mobile With Video

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The arrival of Skype Mobile with Video was supposed to coincide with the HTC Thunderbolt launch, but for whatever reason that didn't happen even though Qik (now owned by Skype) launched their Video Connect Plus app for iOS last month. Yesterday, the folks at Droid Life got their hands on the app's APK (which only works on the Thunderbolt) and shared it with the world. This is not the final release nor even an official one. Does it matter? We downloaded the app to give it a test drive and find out.

The unauthorized app shares the same UI and features as the app on the market except that, when calling, users can now choose video chat. Once a chat has been initiated, users can switch from front to back camera if they desire while still in a call. Score. Just as with the Fring app (before Skype pulled the plug), we were able to call our Skype contacts both on another phone and on the desktop software. Thumbs up.

After using it for a couple of days, I can see why Skype hasn't released this app yet. It force closed on us a few times and shut down the Thunderbolt completely twice, initiating a reboot. When in a call, sometimes video just didn't start, and we couldn't figure out why or how to get it back. The problem is probably related to the network, so it would be nice if the app would just say that. Instead, it freaked out and closed.

When we were able to connect, the picture from the Thunderbolt usually started out clear with audio syncing well, but there were frequent moments when the picture quality degraded so much that the person we called looked like a bad watercolor painting. This happened on both ends during Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt calls. When calling Thunderbolt to PC, we saw mostly clear video from the PC, but the same blocky/watercolor thing happened to the person on the other end.


Left: video from Thunderbolt when it's good. Right: video from Thunderbolt when it's terrible.

Audio similarly wasn't always clear. Just as with video, it dropped in and out of clear and stuttery/distorted, but not so much that we didn't understand what the person on the other end said. Still, it's definitely an issue.

Delay in both audio and video lasted anywhere from a fraction of a second to 3, depending on the behavior of the network. Naturally, the framerates aren't stellar, so even if audio was a little off from video, it's not so noticeable. See for yourself in our hands-on video:

Given these issues, I'm guessing this is why the app isn't available officially yet. If Skype can knock out the instability, that's an excellent first step. Video/audio quality over LTE is likely the bigger problem. At least the company is trying instead of just restricting video chat to Wi-Fi like FaceTime.

My suggestion: Don't download the app yet. Wait until Skype releases an official, stable version.

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