Prizefight (week of September 14)
Google Voice vs. Skype
Google Voice vs. Skype
Google's communications service may offer a different set of tools, but its rich features and brand cachet are quickly making it a go-to service for tech-savvy talkers. Skype is sure to be feeling the heat.
Now that Google has introduced yet another another trick by integrating Google Voice with your Gmail in-box, it's high time we throw both powerhouses into the ring and see which is left standing.
Ante up your bets, everyone. This Prizefight is about to begin.
Editors' note: The Prizefight scoring system is as follows: Each judge rates on a 0-to-5-point scale. At the end of each round, we will take an average of the three judges' scores. The final score will be an average of all five rounds.
Round 1: Apps and interfaceHow an app looks often goes hand in hand with how easy it is to use. Which service's public face has the goods, Skype or Google Voice?
|Google Voice||4I'm not a huge fan of Google's spare design, but the in-box metaphor just works when it comes to managing voice mail and missed calls. Though you don't need a mobile app to use Google Voice, the smartphone apps, especially on Android, make it easy as pie to use.||4I personally really like Google Voice because of how tightly integrated it is with my Google account. I already have my Gmail account open most of the time, so making a call is just a matter of typing in a few numbers and pressing Enter. Relying on the Web browser also means you don't need to download another app.||4I don't live in the Google ecoystem 24-7, but it's an advantage to do everything in a single browser on a desktop. Once you set up a Google Voice number, you don't really need any app on your mobile phone to use it.||4|
|Skype||3Skype has undergone some major overhauls, but the app seems behind some of its direct competitors. The mobile apps are easy to use, but they haven't yet implemented video chat, a key feature. (Note that Google Voice apps don't offer video chatting either.)||3The Skype interface is similar to that of other instant messaging programs, which means it's pretty easy to use. I also like that the chat interface is closely tied to the program. However, I find that the Skype app can be rather sluggish, and it can take a while for it to launch and load.||3It's a clean standalone desktop IM client that has no major flaws. On the mobile side, both sides of the call need to have the app to use the service.||3|
Round 2: FeaturesTwo voice services, two approaches. We break it down to tell you which provider offers more pow in their punch.
|Google Voice||4Google Voice hits you over the head with services; call forwarding and visual voice mail are the best. Voice mail transcription is tragicomically incorrect, but it's easy to access via text message, e-mail, or the Web. However, it requires more up-front commitment to get started than does Skype.||4The key feature I like is that you can forward calls to your phone number with Google Voice. Additionally, you can use your Google Voice number to hand out to people if you want to screen your calls. I don't think transcription is that valuable, however, because Google Voice's transcription technology is horribly inaccurate most of the time.||4Being able to use the service and forward your Google Voice number to other phones is a big deal to me. Transcription is anything but perfect, but I like my visual voice mail in a browser.||4|
|Skype||4Long-distance video and voice chats are Skype's main purpose, and for the most part, it does an admirable job. Skype has recently beefed up call and video quality. IM, SMS, voice mail, and games are extras, but vocal communication is the star.||3I enjoy having a separate chat window with the Skype app, and the main value of Skype is that it is available internationally, whereas Google Voice is not. Still, that's not quite enough to unseat Google Voice for me.||4Skype excels when you're talking about video calls. Its video and audio quality and connection reliability give it an edge over Google. And as long as both people are using the app, I can communicate anywhere for free.||3.7|
Round 3: Device compatibilityA voice service isn't any good if you can't use it when and where you want. See which service wins this round.
|Google Voice||5Google's ubiquity gives Google Voice the upper hand. It's accessible from the Web, smartphones, and even your Gmail account. But you can also place calls using just your phone, once you've called your own Google Voice number and have gone through the menu system. It's not always elegant, but it works.||5This is kind of a no-brainer here. Most any cell phone and modern smartphone can use Google Voice to varying degrees, and, of course, you can use a browser as well. You can't use VoIP-only devices, but the fact that you don't even need a VoIP device should be a plus.||5I can use Google Voice pretty much anywhere, on almost any phone I want without having an app to get in the way. If I want to use the service on a browser, I can do that, but I'm not dependent on it.||5|
|Skype||3Skype is accessible via Web app, smartphone app, and dedicated Skype phone that you can purchase. However, apps are no longer available for all mobile platforms, which makes it more limited.||3Yes, you can use Skype on a smartphone if you have the app, but Google Voice doesn't need an app. Of course, you can also use it on a computer, but again, that requires an app.||3The Skype app lives on your desktop and mobile phones and VoIP phones, but it needs an app on those platforms if you want to use it.||3|
Round 4: CostBoth Skype and Google Voice are free in some situations and will incur a cost in others. Let's see how the pricing stacks up in this final round.
|Google Voice||3It really depends on your needs. Google Voice makes free calls to landlines and mobile phones for U.S. users only, and only to the U.S. and Canada. Google profits from any other international calls.||4Google Voice can make free calls to landlines in the U.S. and Canada, and voice mail and receiving text messages is free.||5At the moment, it's free to use in the U.S. and Canada through 2010, but will it stay free forever? You'll still have to pay fees to call internationally.||4|
|Skype||4Skype-to-Skype calls are free, but they'll cost you a (reasonable) rate to a landline or mobile phone. Serious long-distance callers should make the effort to get the fee app. Skype is still limited, but it helps more people save more on long-distance calls.||3Making Skype-to-Skype calls is free, but everything else requires a fee.||4Skype offers free calls ANYWHERE, as long as both parties are using a Skype client. That's a specific condition, but it will always be free that way. If you want the flexibility to call landlines or mobile phones, you'll have to pay.||3.7|
The winner is...
Google Voice (4.3 pts)
Skype (3.4 pts)
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