The official Skype app for Android lets you place free voice and video calls to other Skype users, or, for a small charge, voice calls to landlines and mobile numbers. The app also comes with built-in SMS capabilities, instant messaging for chatting with your Skype connections, and file transfers between users. For some, it's the ultimate communications hub, but we think it's still at least one big feature away from earning that title.
Skype may seem like a complicated app, with its video, chatting, and landline-calling capabilities, but rest assured, it isn't. The Home screen is decidedly tidy, with four icons to cover all your basic needs: Contacts, Recent, Call phones, and Profile. Above the icons, there's a small bar where you can change your mood message (Skype's version of a status update), and at the very top, you can choose to mark yourself as Away, Invisible, Online, or Offline. Meanwhile, the tablet-optimized version splits the functions up similarly, but takes advantage of the larger screen real estate with a dual-panel interface. It's all very bright and minimal, and it's a huge improvement over the UI of some of Skype's earliest versions.
What's great about the Skype mobile app is that it lets you place calls just as easily as on the desktop. Just tap or long-press on a contact and hit "Skype call." Alternatively, you can send a quick IM to a contact or, if your device is supported, engage in a video call. Within a call, you can easily toggle video on and off with a single tap, which is convenient. Also, it's worth noting that you can have two-way voice calls with only one person transmitting video.
While engaged in a video call, you can easily mute or end a call, or swap cameras from front to back (if your device is equipped). And if a regular voice call comes in (not through Skype) and you accept, your video call will automatically be placed on hold until you return, which is a nice touch. As for video quality, our calls were slightly pixelated and choppy, even with both callers on a strong Wi-Fi connection, but overall still impressive (just not as impressive as some screenshots on Skype's Web site might have you believe). On the other hand, the audio quality was as crisp as advertised, perhaps due to the app's newly implemented audio codec, Silk.
Because Skype integrates with your Android address book, managing your contacts within the app is easy. You can sync Skype with all of your phone's contacts, have the app sift through your contacts for existing Skype users, or simply add someone manually.
My biggest issue with Skype is that it is incapable of group video chats, which is a shame, since the feature is growing in popularity. That said, with Google+ and its group-video Hangouts steadily improving, I would guess that Skype's developers are hard at work trying to perfect the feature for their product.
Skype for Android has come a long way from its early days as a clunky app that supported very few devices. Now, it's got a sleek design, fantastic audio quality, and impressive, though less than perfect, video quality. What's more, it's proven to be a great option for sending instant messages and SMS texts as well.