At the bottom, you'll see two icons: a number pad for making calls, and a chat button to initiate a new chat. Tapping the chat icon will start a new individual or group chat; you can select users to add by scrolling through your contacts list, which appears in the new chat window, or just by typing a friends' name. Lin stressed that group chats are a huge trend in messaging these days, so the app makes starting a group chat just as easy as starting an individual one.
When starting a chat or picking up where a conversation left off, you'll notice the main bottom navigation items drift away. The replacement icons will launch either a video chat or a voice chat; by default, conversations start as standard character messages, just like Skype on your desktop.
I've made a couple of Skype calls and video chats with Skype 5.0 on my iPhone, and the quality naturally depends on your internet or data connection — much like FaceTime. With a good connection, both the audio and video quality are crisp and clear. I like that Skype's controls stay out of the way during video chat, displayed as small icons at the bottom of the screen, and they don't interfere with your chat. You can turn your phone's front-facing camera on or off, mute or un-mute your microphone, add a caller, or end the call.
One of the most notable new features is offline media sharing. If a friend is offline, you can still send her images or video messages. She'll receive them the next time she logs in. Skype won't notify you of every single message, ping, or incoming call — unless you want it to. The app offers ways to customize your notifications, and you could always log out of the app for temporary radio silence — which is really handy if you use Skype on multiple devices and want to cease the "pachinko parlor"-esque sounds of multiple notifications going off on your iPhone, tablet, and laptop.
While the features and app experience are nice, what makes this update a big deal is the emphasis that the Skype team has placed on making this app a better experience for users.
"Everything we've done is based on user feedback, and it's something we take very seriously," said Lin, adding that his team sorted through all sorts of user feedback and comments in the App Store to figure out what features to focus on. "We want to put your conversations in the forefront, with a more integrated experience overall."
Skype 5.0 for iPhone is now available for free in the App Store. The iPad version will receive a similar update at a later date.
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