Skype for Android 2.0: The Video Call Experience

Great video quality on trial call; however, battery life issues continue to dog Skype on mobile smartphones.

Skype for Android.2.graphic.240pxYesterday Skype announced the release of Skype for Android 2.0 introducing two-way video calling and SMS messaging into the Skype for Android feature set. It also introduces a new user interface running on phones with Android 2.3 or later and a front-facing camera,  including HTC Desire S, Sony Ericsson Xperia neo, Sony Ericsson Xperia pro and the Google Nexus S.

Most importantly it allows video calling with Skype users on the iPhone (3.0 or later), Mac (5.0 or later), Windows PCs (4.2 or later), other Android phones and Skype-enabled TV’s and BluRay players. Calls can be made over WiFi or 3G connections. More details are in the Skype Garage Blog post here.

Not having an appropriate phone I went to two acquaintances with access to the Google Nexus 5 for their feedback. First I made a contact with an acquaintance at his office in London, UK from my MacBook using Skype for Mac 5.1 – over WiFi connections at both ends. Rather than a production quality interview it’s more of an exercise in testing out various features of the new version as he wanders about his office, especially when it comes to making a video call. Here’s an edited version of the video:

Note that, aside from excellent video quality, the image, as observed from the Technical Call Info detail, was 320 x 240 running up to 17 fps, the camera was able to adapt to both focal range and ambient lighting conditions. Overall it was a more than acceptable quality call. While the demonstration includes switching between the front-facing and rear camera, it was not accelerometer sensitive, in that one could not invert the phone with an inversion of the image. While I did not check during the call, one would assume it uses Skype’s superwideband SILK codec; certainly the crisp audio was there.

Initially there was a question of whether Skype for Android 2.0 could support multi-party Group Chat. “Eventually” is the answer in that once you sign in, it can take 15 to 30 minutes to catch up with all the recent messages in a fairly active group chat. But this is the same experience as with Skype for iPhone.

Another acquaintance, the developer of this website, is a big fan of the Google Nexus S and ran a battery test with this result:

Greatly improved UI but battery issues persist. I started it at 2:00pm with a full charge, by 8:00pm the phone was dead. It was pretty much sitting idle the whole time. Android reports it taking up 16% of the battery usage when running in the background (second only to the display). Disappointing… I wish I could use it.

No great surprise, given the battery experience when running Skype for iPhone. Once again, Skype provides a Skype client on a mobile device where you need to open and close Skype only when you really need it. Certainly, if one could have a Contact group (Mac) or category (Windows) comprising only those contacts whom the user deems critical for mobile Skype calling, it may help to reduced battery draining presence activity for users with over 50 contacts.

Here’s the Skype video demonstration:

Bottom line; While delivering a more than acceptable qualityvideo calling experience with higher resolution than Skype for iPhone (320 x 240 vs 160 x 120) along with the voice calling, chat, presence and mood message features of Skype, battery drain continues to be an issue. The solution: only have Skype for Android open when necessary, keep it near a charger or find an extended battery accessory for the phone (similar to what FastMac has for iPhone).

About Jim Courtney

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

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