I honestly can't remember the last time I used Skype on my iPhone. It's one of those apps I installed a few years back and rarely ended up using, but I kept it installed because of the frequency that I use its desktop app on my Mac. There was nothing wrong with Skype for iOS before, it's just that there were other more mobile-friendly messaging apps that I preferred.
Apparently, I was not alone here, and the Skype team knew that. On Monday, Microsoft announced that they would be launching a remastered version of Skype for the iPhone that addresses issues found in previous versions.
"The pace of change in mobile is crazy," said Eric Lin, a product marketing manager for Skype, in an interview with TechHive. He added that the previous version of Skype was built in 2010, so in order to create an app that keeps up with other messaging powerhouses, the team scrapped the old app and redesigned it from the ground up.
We wrote about what features it would include — the ability to share offline photos, better device-to-device syncing, and several app-wide performance improvements — and now I've had time to test out these new features firsthand.
A defining look and feel
Skype is a messaging platform, after all, so even if you're new to Skype it will feel intuitive to use. When launching the app, you're prompted to sign in (or create a new account), and then you're shown a handy video on how to get started. If you have an existing Skype account, all of your contacts and saved conversations will be there when you log in.
My first reaction to the app was: "Welp, this definitely looks like a Microsoft product." I use Outlook for my work email, and Skype 5.0 has a similar feel to Outlook's web app, or its standalone OWA app for iOS. It uses the same font, has similar navigation, and of course similarly matches Skype's app for the Mac. The design aesthetic places it firmly in Microsoft's ecosystem, which might sound a little bizarre for an iOS app, but the overall affect is one of continuity from platform to platform. Everything syncs smoothly across devices.
The main page houses three main tabs in an easily scrollable navigation bar along the top; browse between people (your contacts), recent (your recent conversations), and favorites (contacts and convos that you've marked as such). Above the tabs sits your profile picture; tap on it to update your profile settings and status. As you swipe between tabs, you'll notice a subtle animation as the app's background design — fluffy white clouds — moves along with you. If you scroll down, the top header shrinks, showing more information on screen. Tap on any contact or convo to chat.
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