Thoughts on mobile development - Symbian, Blackberry, Android, J2ME and iPhone

Skype on Android … sort of

By Aaron Davidson, in , posted: 26-Mar-2010 17:46

We've used Skype in the office since it was in beta.  It has been fantastic.  Its a great way of firing files between workstations, chatting without disturbing other people, keeping track of what someone told me about something and naturally, a cost effective way of communicating with people remotely.

Skype on mobile makes so much sense to me.  Why SMS when you can IM?  If you're in wi-fi range why waste your call minutes when you can call for free?

So I've always been frustrated by Skype's inexplicable approach to mobile.  For years Skype had a Win mobile client but no Symbian client.  That's a pain since I've more often than not had Symbian phones.  Skype explained that the user experience wasn't good enough on Symbian which never stacked up as you could just use Fring on Symbian which then used Skype.  It made even less sense when in 2006 (yes that's right, four years ago) Skype announced it did actually have a Symbian client after all but no you couldn't use it unless you were on 3 (the mobile network).

Here's a pic circa 2006 of Skype running quite happily on an ancient Nokia 6680 using Symbian S60 2nd Edn:

skype on 6680

Recently Skype announced that Symbian is now supported (great, I can throw Fring away at last) and that they've killed the Windows mobile version (bummer, tough break guys).  Skype have also announced that they have an Android version, but no you can't use it unless you're with Verizon (again with this, really?!).  There used to be a Skype lite Android version but that has been canned and so all non-Verizon Android users are out in the cold.

skype on Android

Unbelievably the new "Skype for Android users on Verizon's network" cannot use wi-fi.  The word inexplicable does not even come close.  How hard can it be to roll a version that just works on a the leading mobile platforms?

Not that hard apparently as Fring hasn't had any problem doing it.  Performance a problem?  Hire some smarter engineers from the guys for whom it obviously was not a problem or just reduce the functionality.  Diminished functionality is better than no functionality.  If a user doesn't like the app then they don't have to use it after all.

Skype I love you but you inexplicably keep frustrating my attempts to spend more money with you!  Perhaps your mobile strategy is perfectly rational and I just missed the press release?

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Comment by sbiddle, on 27-Mar-2010 08:24

From what I've read the reason it doesn't work over WiFi is because it's not a true VoIP implimentation, but uses the mobile network for all voice calls. This is exactly how Skype has worked on the '3' network globally since it was introduced many years ago.

All messaging and call setup is carried over a packet switch session but all voice calling is carried over circuit switched voice.

Comment by pengo, on 27-Mar-2010 08:55

You're entirely right. But having said that, Fring gives me seamless Skype on my HTC G1 Android phone, and the Skype network seems happy to allow both my phone and my desktop to be connected at the same time. As my business phone is a Skype In number, this is an all-round winner for me.

The one issue I've struck with the Fring client on the G1 is the inability to send replies to Skype chat messages: I can compose replies, but there seems no on-screen or keyboard option to send them on their way.

A dedicated Skype application for Android would be a wondrous thing, but until that surfaces I'm more than happy with what Fring offers me.

Thanks for the article Aaron,


Author's note by ald, on 29-Mar-2010 10:14

Steve, I think you're right.  From what I read "Skype for Android users on Verizon's network" simply invokes the call stack for US to US calls.  However for international calls it looks like it uses Skype Voip/3G.

Comment by Linuxluver, on 14-Apr-2010 21:11

Telcos don't want Skype with wifi. Skype therefore makes phone calls. 

The only Skype I know that works for voice (Skype Out) over wifi is the one on my iPod Touch.

The Android version called a local Auckland number...and then got cheap. Meanwhile, I was paying a Vodafone Minute to a local landline number.  That may  be OK up to a point on plan minutes, but it sucked badly on prepay.

Comment by Pastor Wynn, on 15-May-2010 00:59

Thanks for the info on Fring. I have an Android G-1, that I acquired from T-Mobile in February 2010. I am somewhat bothered that it appears to be obsolete already. It is inexplicable why Skype would remove its "lite" version from the Market. However, Fring works flawlessly for me. Thanks for the discovery!

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Aaron Davidson
New Zealand

Co-founder and CEO of SimWorks - New Zealands leading developer of mobile applications.

SimWorks Anti-Virus protects over 1.5 million mobile phones around the world everyday.

SimWorks phone backup enables mobile operators to protect their subscribers mobile phone contacts and provide their subscribers with unique and compelling new ARPU boosting services.

If you need a mobile app developed give us a call.

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