10 things you need to know about Skype
Jul 17 2009
Promises of free calls might make you wonder whether it's time to release your grip on your contract-sucking mobile.
But before you consider taking the plunge into the world that is Skype, here are 10 things you should know about it.
1) How does it work?Skype is a voice over IP (VoIP) application that can be downloaded to your desktop PC or mobile phone. Using your current internet connection, all you have to do is grab your headset with microphone, hit the green button, and you are ready to call people across the world for free.
2) It’s free… mostlyChatting to a fellow Skype user, whether it be via your computer or Skype-enabled mobile device, is free. But, before you dump your contract phone, it will cost you a small fee to talk to someone who is not on Skype.
You can own local numbers in a host of countries, with your calls to the number charged at the same rate as calls to fixed lines in your own country. Services like SkypeIn and SkypeOut are the route to contacting people on their existing mobile numbers or land-line numbers. It may sound silly, but ensure you know enough people on Skype to fully embrace the service.
3) Skyping all over the worldWhat is great about Skype is being able to talk to long-distance relatives without the pain of the long-distance charge. But that is not the case for every country. Skype is built on a closed protocol, which means all equipment used is made by the company but also means countries such as China ban the use of Skype.
4) Skype devicesMobile network provider 3 provides a selection of Skypephone handsets, while Sony's PSP can be used for free calls via its Wi-Fi connection. Rumours that Skype could appear on the Nintendo DSi continue, with Nintendo apparently unwilling to develop a mobile service which requires a monthly contract.
Skype is also available as an app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It has proved hugely popular, surpassing more than one million downloads; that’s six every second.
5) Skype pluginsThe Skype Extras store is a place where you can make the application more than just a place to chat freely. It's completely open for anyone who wants to create plugins and add-ons for Skype, which are then made available to other users. So if you fancy a spot of chess with your pal in the Ukraine or want to chill out to some tunes on Last.fm, take a browse.
6) Skype mobilesPick up one of the Skype mobiles and you are getting the best of both worlds. You can contact millions of Skype users for free, while still retaining more familiar mobile phone usability.
Although Skype phone calls and instant messages can be used for free, video calling is not yet supported. ASUS has recently revealed its EEE Videophone, which is not quite a mobile but fully supports face-to-face calling if you need it. If you don’t fancy buying a 3 Skype phone, simply pay up a nominal fee for a 3 sim card to use on a compatible unlocked handset, download the application and you are on your way to free call heaven.
7) Video chattingTwenty-five percent of Skype-to-Skype phone calls include video. To use this feature, connect your webcam, hit the green button and then the webcam button. It is a great way to cut the cost of paying out for a video conferencing set-up at work and the quality is among the best around.
8) Skype means businessSkype has a genuine presence in the world of business, even used by some companies to hold job interviews. It's a simple solution to the dilemma of having an overseas candidate travel halfway around the globe.
9) Skype MessengerProof that there is more to Skype than phone calls, Skype Messenger is an additional free service. Skype also enables you to to download videos from sites DailyMotion and Metcafe so you can chat, watch a video and file share all in the same window.
10) Free forever?It certainly seems that way at the moment. However, mobile network providers are all too aware of the growing prominence of the VoIP application and how it may affect their business.
With new roaming regulations in effect since July, some of the major mobile phone manufacturers are wondering whether the service of Skype and your standard mobile phone connection should be paid separately. Nokia’s recent decision to pre-install its N97 handsets with Skype led to O2 and Orange blocking the sale of the phone through their networks.
The likelihood of paying for both services seems unlikely, but not impossible, so while it’s still free we suggest you get the most out of this VoIP wonder.
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