Recently, there have been many converts to
Skype, including this reviewer. There are several factors that have
influenced my own personal move, but my primary motivations were
innovation, quality, and marketability. VoIP has always been an
application that is easily marketable, and Skype has added innovative
features that are quality-rich:
SkypeOut, where you can use your computer to call ordinary phone numbers
all over the world. The global SkypeOut rate is currently 1.7 Euro Cent
(about 2 US cents or 1.1 pence) per minute to more than 20 countries.
• SkypeIn, which is a virtual phone
number your friends can call. This is in beta testing at the time of
writing this review, but the 12-month subscription is available for € 30
and 3 months for € 10.
• Skype Voicemail, which lets you
redirect calls to your voicemail, is available at € 5 for 3 months or €
15 for the year.
However, the most widespread
application of Skype is PC-to-PC calls. Any user can make free calls
over the Internet to anyone else who also has Skype. It is a simple
wizard-based process to download and use the application, and works via
your broadband connection with operating systems based on Microsoft
Windows, Mac, Linux, and Pocket PCs. All you need is a PC microphone and
speakers or a basic USB headset, and what you get is a real-time,
telephone-quality voice conversation with any PC end-user in the world.
I found the downloading to be extremely simple and straightforward and
imagine that anyone, no matter your computer fluency will find it easy
In addition to its ease of setup, the
features of Skype are really impressive. There is a facility to search
the Skype database, so that you are able to build a list of contacts. We
have used Skype for Windows 1.4 for a PC-to-PC conversation between Los
Angeles and Mumbai (India), and there was no recorded break in the
half-hour call. The clarity was definitely on par with a normal
telephone, perhaps even better, with no noticeable time lag. On
subsequent calls between these destinations and other US cities
including Chicago, the quality continues to amaze us, and the fact that
Skype works in most environments, irrespective of firewalls or NAT,
widens its reach.
So, what’s the downside? A comparative
analysis will help clarify the situation. For a start, Skype does not
offer as many calling features as other service providers like Vonage.
Then, there have been question marks about the technical/customer
support offered by Skype. Another point where Skype loses out is the
quality of the SkypeOut package, where the calls made to landlines are
of inconsistent quality. One hopes that Skype can add video chat to its
repertoire in the near future, which will place Skype on an equal
standing with other free VoIP providers like Yahoo! Messenger and MSN
Messenger, which already have video capabilities. Skype is undoubtedly
ahead of both MSN and Yahoo in terms of voice quality and the real-time
conversation experience. On the other side of the spectrum, Vonage
offers feature-rich services and better customer service, although all
this comes at a price.
My Overall Assessment: Vonage is a
better option than Skype for traditional telephone users because Skype
is totally computer-dependent and caters to consumers who are "living
out of their computers."
The future has a lot to offer, and
undoubtedly Skype will move forward in its evolutionary process, and
hopefully improve SkypeOut and emerge successfully out of beta testing
for SkypeIn. However, for the moment, Skype is arguably the best option
for free PC-to-PC calls. Skype says that the "current focus is to make
the best voice-application on the planet"—judging from user feedback
around the world, Skype has already gone a long distance towards that