Skype for Android opens up video calling--sort of

The official Skype app for Android lets you place voice calls to landlines, mobile numbers, or other Skype users. It also offers built-in SMS capabilities, instant messaging for chatting with your Skype connections, and for a select few supported devices,

The official Skype app for Android lets you place voice calls to landlines, mobile numbers, or other Skype users. It also offers built-in SMS capabilities, instant messaging for chatting with your Skype connections, and for a select few supported devices, video calls.

Skype's user interface is incredibly clean and simple to use. The Home screen displays four icons to cover all your basic needs: Contacts, Recent, Call phones, 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, there's a search function. It's all very bright and minimal, and it's a huge improvement over Skype's last UI.

With Skype for Android, you can place calls just as easily as you can from your desktop computer. Just tap on a contact and hit "Skype call"--it's really that simple. Alternatively you can send an IM or, if your device is supported, engage in a video call. Unfortunately--and this is a biggie--Skype video calling is only available on a measly four Android devices at the moment: the HTC Desire S, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo and Pro, and the Google Nexus S. Considering Skype is so tightly associated with video-calling capabilities, this lack of support is almost inexcusable. And if you're wondering if you can make one-way video calls--you can't. Both devices must support video calls, otherwise it's voice only.

If you're lucky enough to engage in a video call, you'll have the options to Mute, End, or access the video menu. 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. As for video quality, many of our calls were pixelated and choppy. The app even dropped calls when it seemed to get bogged down (even though our connection didn't seem all that bad). However, in a few cases, when we connected to a solid 4G signal, we were able to see some rather smooth video footage. So, while Skype's video call quality is not perfect, a strong Wi-Fi or 4G connection can certainly help.

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. It's all very convenient.

Overall, it looks like Skype for Android has the makings of a great video-calling application. However, at this point, it's not quite there yet. Its limited device support (for video calling) is despicable. And while it does place voice calls, and send instant messages and SMS texts perfectly, its video calls are not as reliable. If you're an active Skype member, Skype for Android is absolutely a great download. But for those who are looking for a solid video-calling method for Android, Skype probably isn't it--at least not until it supports more devices.

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