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Video calling over Skype.....
Post by Peter Michael with Power IP Solutions and Core Builders, Malibu, Calif.
Video calling over Skype.....
Video calling between computers
is growing bigger each week.
that, in the first half of last year, 44% of its Skype-to-Skype calling minutes were video, as opposed to audio.
But making video calls over mobile phones is a new thing,
one that began to get real only last year, when multiple smart phones with front-facing cameras came to market.
Apple introduced a free video-calling service called
FaceTime that was built into into the iPhone 4 and later added to the iPod Touch—both of which now have front cameras—and
Some Android phones with front-facing
cameras shipped with a video-calling app called Qik, which Skype just acquired, though it says it developed its mobile system
prior to the deal.
Tango launched video-calling apps
for both iPhone and Android last year.
It is obvious
that video calling is increasing.....
Now, Skype has jumped in...big
The biggest is its enormous subscriber
base, from which you can choose to have a mobile video call with anyone whose device includes a camera. That includes not
just iPhones, but also computers. You can do video calling between two iPhones, two computers or one of each type of device.
And take note: unlike Apple's FaceTime, which works only over Wi-Fi, Skype's iPhone
video calling, like those of some competitors, also works over the phone's 3G cellular network, though typically with crummy
Like other products, Skype allows
you to switch between front and rear cameras during a call. Unlike FaceTime, it works with the older iPhone 3GS, though the
latter has only a rear camera.
allows you to receive video calls on an iPad, though you can't transmit video from the tablet, as it lacks cameras.
I tested Skype mobile video calling in two sessions, in both cases between the
center of downtown Los Angeles and the hub of San Diego Calif..... In the first round, I conducted video calls with my co-worker,
using both Wi-Fi and 3G. In the second, I conducted tests with a real Skype representative.
In both sessions of tests, calls made over Wi-Fi on both ends, or even just one
end, were better than those made using 3G cellular on both ends. Skype says this is due to the unpredictability of cellular
data network speeds and congestion. And, in both rounds of tests, calls where one party was on a computer, as opposed to both
being on iPhones, worked better.
But, in general, the service was only so-so.
Sometimes, the images were fuzzy, or syncing between audio and video was off, or the calls would freeze or crash. Only a small
amt of the calls were truly good for more than a few minutes.
Skype does warn you if
your network quality is too poor for a decent video experience, but, even if the app deems your network connection acceptable,
the call may still look or sound crappy.
In the tests with my co-worker, we compared the Skype calls to FaceTime calls and found
the latter to be much better, though hardly perfect.
In fairness, this was also
true when I tested Tango last year, and may have something to do with the fact that FaceTime is Wi-Fi only and is deeply integrated
into the iPhone, while Apple doesn't allow third parties like Skype the same level of integration.
In both rounds of tests, incoming regular cellphone calls, even when ignored, disrupted the Skype calls, by either
cutting out the audio or freezing the video, or both. Skype claims this is a problem with the iPhone's operating system and
it is working with Apple on a solution.
Skype's computer-based group-calling feature worked much better, though my tests were more limited, and were conducted
with a group of Skype employees who were using a wired office network connection. (I was on Wi-Fi at my base home.)
Group calling, which can handle between three and 10 people, is a feature of the latest
Windows version of Skype, and of the latest beta version for the Mac.
tested both and found the Windows version had a few more features, being complete, but both versions did work. You can set
up a group in advance in your Skype contact list and call all members with one click, or you can add people on the fly.
In my tests, there were four Skype employees, each at separate computers, plus me. Each
appeared in his or her own box on a dark screen and I could optionally see myself in a smaller box.
The box containing whoever is
speaking is automatically outlined in blue. You can also turn on a cool feature in the Windows version called Dynamic View,
which enlarges the box of the lead speaker and moves it to the top of the screen.
In contrast to my mobile tests, this more limited test of group video calling provided
very good quality, with almost no fuzziness, freezing or syncing issues. I can't say how it would work over slow networks,
and Skype does publish minimum bandwidth and processor recommendations for using it.
But it worked well for me. The group video-calling feature is part of a plan that costs
$8.99 a month, after a seven-day free trial.
Generally, I'd say Skype has real "got" paid group video calling on computers, but has work to do on its
free mobile video calling. Perhaps the real invention of truley faster 4G networks will help make mobile video calls better.