This is a review of a Java based lite version of Skype, a VoIP and IM application that has been recently made available for mobile phones.
Skype lite (beta) was installed on a Nokia E71, an S60 3rd edition FP1 device.
The installation files ARE a MIDlet suite, containing a Java Application Descriptor (JAD) file and a Java Archive (JAR) file. The application is based on the Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME), which is different from .sis(x) files that is the native Symbian installation format. The installation is exactly the same as you would install a .sis file, using the Nokia Application Installer in the Nokia PC Suite.
Skype lite (still in beta) is a mobile IM and VoIP application for Skype subscribers. You can call landlines (SkypeOut), make local rate Skype-to-Skype calls, receive calls from Skype users and landlines (SkypeIn) and IM with your Skype contacts. But there is a catch. Read on.
What’s the USP of Skype lite when compared to the various other VoIP applications for mobiles? Other VoIP applications require you to have a WiFi connection that will be used to connect the call via an IP network. But if you are not near a WiFi access point but still want to make a low cost international call using Skype, get Skype lite.
Skype lite on the mobile handsets require local airtime for making voice calls. While you don’t need WiFi or 3G to make calls, you need GSM coverage to make a local call, which will be switched to an IP network on one of Skype’s servers. To sign into the application and update it, you’ll need mobile internet (WiFi or GPRS/Edge or 3G). So a calling plan and a data plan becomes pre-requisites for using Skype lite.
Therefore, if you are roaming, the all important local call to get you to be recognized by Skype’s servers could turn out to be very expensive. That’s why, Skype recommends users to avoid using Skype lite while traveling abroad.
Calls to phones, mobiles or any of the Skype contacts via Skype lite are currently available only in selected countries – United Kingdom, Poland, Brazil (Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo), Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. I guess Skype must have clinched a deal with the GSM service providers in these countries to allow the use of Skype on mobiles in exchange for charging the users the cost of a local call. Otherwise, there is no incentive for GSM operators to allow VoIP calls on the mobile.
You can create a new Skype account or sign on from the application. There are several configuration options for the user, which are very similar to the desktop version of Skype. A common user interface is maintained between the desktop and the mobile version.
Even if calling is not possible in your location, IM is still possible via GPRS/3G or WiFi.
The application has a very neat and pleasing user interface. I didn’t have any trouble navigating around it.
Entering text during chat takes you to a different text editor. This could have been avoided. Text entry should have been allowed on the native screen itself. The first character you type opens up the editor. The first character of the first word was always lost
With the restriction of having the make local calls to setup a VoIP connection, Skype lite really runs the risk of losing users to other VoIP applications.
Skype lite provides a unique service that’s not available in other popular applications like fring, Nimbuzz, Trutap and Truphone. Though its a little late to the mobile IM & VoIP scene, the service will be useful for mobile users who make international calls often (who are away from WiFi access points but have GSM coverage), as Skype’s prices are often less than what a wireless carrier charges. The cost will be deducted from a user’s Skype Credit account, but Skype-to-Skype calls won’t cost anything besides the local airtime minutes. Skype does not have the advantage of IM, VoIP aggregators which allow you to use multiple IM, VoIP service using a single application, like fring. Its worth a look and is available here for a free download.