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Skype 5.0 for iPhone is the Best Version Yet

Posted by Jim Tanous on June 12, 2014
Skype for iPhone 5.0

Microsoft’s Skype team today is launching Skype 5.0 for iPhone, a complete ground-up rebuild of the video, audio, and chat communication app. We’ve spent some time with a pre-release version of the app and, as frequent Skype users, we were glad to see some pretty impressive performance improvements alongside a refreshed design.

With the new version, Microsoft is targeting three key attributes that differentiate Skype 5.0 from its predecessor: speed, navigation, and intelligence. We’ll take a quick look at each of these areas vis-à-vis the currently shipping Skype 4.17.

Speed

Depending on how you use Skype, some of the changes in Skype 5.0 may not be important to all users. In terms of performance, however, everyone who launches the new app will notice the difference. On our test iPhone 5s, a cold launch of Skype 4.17 takes about 5 seconds, while a cold launch of Skype 5.0 takes just over 1 second. That’s not huge for those who only use the app occasionally, but frequent Skype users will appreciate the improvement.

Skype 5.0 for iPhone

A comparison of the user profile page on Skype 4.17 (left) and Skype 5.0 (right)

In terms of using the app, Skype 5.0 also feels noticeably snappier (cue the Safari jokes), with recent chats and contact information pages loading nearly instantly. Skype 4.17 was no slouch in these areas, but consistently felt a half second slower than its replacement.

Navigation

Related to the speed improvements is smoother navigation, which makes using the app faster and easier with just a swipe of a thumb or finger. Those who have used Skype on other platforms will instantly recognize the changes; Skype 5.0 brings the same modern interface to the iPhone that Microsoft has already introduced on Android and Windows Phone. Major sections are listed at the top of the app and can be changed with a swipe to the right or left. As a user swipes, an aesthetically pleasing cloud animation flows in the background, but disappears to make room for vertical scrolling.

Skype 5.0 for iPhone

Skype Contacts on version 4.17 (left) and 5.0 (right)

Users can enter chats and calls with a tap, but quickly navigate back with a swipe. Couple this with the speed improvements mentioned above and you end up with a slick overall experience.

Perhaps best of all, group chats can now be started right from the mobile app itself, something that has been a frustrating omission in previous versions. iOS users could always participate in an existing group chat, but until now those groups had to be created on the desktop version of Skype (or one of the already-updated mobile versions on other platforms). With Skype 5.0, users need only to tap on the chat button and then select the desired participants from their contact list. A new Favorites list, one of the main navigation categories, also makes the process of contacting friends and family easier and faster.

Skype for iPhone 5.0

New in Skype 5.0 for iPhone: Favorites (left) and the ability to create group chats (right)

Longtime Microsoft watchers will recognize the experience as distinctly Windows (although it’s fair to say that this style of navigation dates back to the Zune), but the overall style, color palette, and “buttonless” selection points all fit nicely into the iOS 7 era of Apple’s mobile design.

Intelligence

As we noted earlier, the look of Skype 5.0 for iPhone has already found a home in the Skype apps for Android and Windows Phone. By bringing this updated version to iOS, the Skype team is one step closer to unifying the Skype experience across the multitude of devices and platforms that users of the service access every day.

But a unified experience is more than looks, and this new version of Skype for iPhone introduces a smarter foundation, one built with the understanding that the average Skype user is likely accessing the service from more than one type of device.

Skype for iPhone 5.0

Skype 5.0 features improved chat management, including the ability to disable notifications on a per chat basis

For example, if you participate in a group chat on your desktop and later open the chat on your iPhone, the new app will sync your reading position in the chat and take you right to where you left off. Further, if you receive and clear a notification on one device, the notification will be automatically cleared on your other devices, so that you’re not stuck re-reading notifications just because you switched devices.

Notifications are now also manageable on a per-chat basis, giving users the option to disable them for less important chats. This is a stark contrast to the all-or-nothing approach to notifications found in Skype 4.17.

The Future

Skype’s refresh on the iPhone is not surprising in light of the current climate of mobile messaging apps and services. Once the biggest name in town, Skype now finds itself challenged by an increasingly capable Apple Messages app, Facebook’s WhatsApp, Snapchat, and a multitude of smaller services, yet Skype 4.17 was built on a code base that was more than 4 years old. For perspective, that makes it about as old as iOS 4. As Skype’s Eric Lin told us, “I can’t even remember what iOS 4 looked like or did, that’s how old it is.”

And so Skype 5.0 isn’t just a new version for the sake of a new version, it’s a complete rebuild that will act as a foundation for the future of the service on iOS. In fact, the company is already looking ahead to iOS 8, and Skype 5.0’s new code base will allow it to more quickly integrate the operating system’s new features once it launches this fall.

Skype for All Platforms

Skype 5.0 for iPhone, alongside its counterparts on Android and Windows Phone, is also key to the company’s goal of “putting conversations first.” From the ability to start both individual and group chats right from the phone, to the ease of managing existing chats, to the overall smooth and fluid user experience, the new Skype is really about getting out of the way. As Mr. Lin characterized it, “we don’t want people to launch Skype to use Skype, we want them to launch Skype because it’s the best way to communicate with their friends, family, and colleagues.”

And our experience with the new app has thus far shown that Microsoft’s Skype team has largely succeeded in its mission. At TekRevue, we rely on Skype every day, and Skype 5.0 for iPhone is the best version yet. The only thing missing from the new version is support for SMS text messaging, which the company removed in order to simplify the code and experience. With a full-featured SMS and MMS experience in Apple’s Messages, however, we can’t say that we will miss the feature in Skype.

Those looking to try out the latest version of Skype for iPhone should be able to find version 5.0 hitting the iOS App Store shortly, although readers should note that the iPad-optimized version currently in the App Store is still version 4.17. The company promises that an iPad version of Skype 5.0 is on the way, with a release date “in the coming months.”

Update [2014-06-16]: Many readers have asked about the ability to clear chat history, which is indeed missing from Skype 5.0. We asked a Skype spokesperson about the omission, and the company provided the following statement:

As with all versions of Skype, we will continue to update Skype for iPhone to provide the best possible experience for our users. We understand your concern regarding the disappearance of this feature and will be re-introducing it back into the app shortly. As always, please keep the feedback coming and help us create the best Skype experience for you.

Update 2 [2014-06-19]: Microsoft updated Skype to version 5.1 today. The ability to remove recent chats has returned (press and hold on the conversation in the “Recent” list to clear it), along with an option to edit sent messages (press and hold on the message in a chat to edit it). Users can now also add favorites directly from the “Favorites” screen on the hub, and the update notes cite VoiceOver improvements and general fixes.

Images in this article not captured by TekRevue were provided by SkypeThe multi-device mockup is courtesy of MediaLoot.

18 thoughts on “Skype 5.0 for iPhone is the Best Version Yet”

ulan bat says:
Skype could be a killer app for any mobile device. There has to be a calculation in why Microsoft constantly sabotages it for non-microsoft platforms. It is time for a couple of smart people to make it right and produce a paid app/service that will finally bring features, quality and portability into this arena.
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JAple1965 says:
fox⁷⁵.com
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JAple1965 says:
fox⁵.com
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JAple1965 says:
fox⁷⁵.com
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JAple1965 says:
Anyone who needs more, I can highly recommend this. I started doing this for 2 yrs and it helped me when I was in depression. I’ve 2500 in 1 week. Now I have fullfilled my many expectations. I am doing this regularly and I can say it’s a great source. You can check it out here just by click on
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JAple1965 says:
************************
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JAple1965 says:
Do U need more, if yes, I can highly recommend this. I started doing this for three yrs and it helped me when I was in depression. I’ve 2500 in 1 week. Now 1 have fulfiled many expectations. I am doing this regularly and 1 can say it’s a great source. U, can check it out here just by click on
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JAple1965 says:
superb
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Lauren Marie says:
I use Skype mobile on my iphone daily for teleconferences for work. Now that I’ve upgraded I cannot find the dial pad once in a call with a Skype user – which is necessary to enter the teleconference. The conference we use has the skype name: “joinconference”. If I call the associated phone number, then the dialpad is there but not when I use the skype contact, which of course is preferable because that way I do not have to pay!
Any assistance or fixes coming for this?
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Thomas Dahl says:
Has Tekrevue actually tested this version of Skype or have they simply regurgitated the Microsoft press release? This is no longer an app.. It is crap. Feature stripped, horrible interface, just horrible.
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Nick Stevens-Carr says:
I’m sorry, but the statement “Best Version Yet” is far from true. This isn’t an update, its a fancy looking downgrade of a number of important features of the app. Can I point out some things? You can set your “mood” in your profile… But how do other people view this when most of the “mood is cut off in the “people” view. Also, they STILL haven’t given us, who pay for premium, the benefits we pay for. Still cannot add people to a conversation or call after its made. You cannot delete conversations as brought up by other people. You cant change the sound output in call, so EVERYONE gets to listen to my conversation on the bus of an evening. Its the little things that maybe Microsoft thought we wouldn’t miss, but they were wrong… Another thing. It would appear that the app isn’t actually finished. The fact that when sending or receiving images you are met with the message, ” sent a file. This version of Skype doesn’t support this yet.” YET. ie. unfinished. I’m sorry, but i send and receive loads of images I take from my phone for school use and personal conversations. And now I have to take the image, email it to my computer and send it from there (if I am out I have to wait till I’m home to email). To me and I’m sure to many others, sending images is a very necessary part of the apps use.

So here are the improvements i would like to see by the next update (ASAP).
– Ability to view others contacts.
– GIVE US OUR PREMIUM BENEFITS.
– Ability to add people to a conversation after its started.
– Ability to delete messages.
– Ability to use Skype with traditional phone-to-ear use.
– Ability to send and receive images and other file types with ability to “Open in…” other apps.
– Fix the instability and HUGE lag when on Mobile

I’m sorry but this is unacceptable for such a large brand as Microsoft. I am contemplating changing to the Windows Phone for the soul fact of Skype. Its pathetic its taken this long for a proper update. And a disappointment it wasn’t up to scratch. Most of these issues would have been discovered with some Usability Testing… You know? App Design 101?

I seriously hope this is fixed before my phone plan runs out or I will be changing.

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Amr says:
In new version can’t see my contacts profile any ideas
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Luda Brand says:
HOW TO ERASE HISTORY ON NEW VERSION SKYPE 5.0?
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Luda Brand says:
How to erase history in the new version of Skype 5.0?
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Thomas Dahl says:
Did anyone at tekrevue actually try this new version before writing the revue? Or are you simply regurgitating the MS press release?

This release is so full of issues.. Voicemail removed, SMS removed, file sending removed, chat delete removed,

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NickA33 says:
Also, with this new versions photos do not automatcially download to your phone, which is not a plus for me. In fact, I’ve yet to figure out how to download photos sent via Skype to my iPhone on this new version. Not cool Skype…
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Kim says:
Is there any word as to whether this update will enable group videochat from mobile devices? I really look forward to group videochats with family members using Apple phones/tablets and Android phones/tablets. I know the capability is coming…hopefully soon!
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Not Cool says:
Best version yet? They made a crucial mistake by forgetting the clear history feature. The design is good and the interface perfect but a mistake like that leaves you with a sour taste in your mouth.
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TekRevue says:
You’re right, that is an interesting omission. I guess I missed that aspect of it because I’ve never, ever needed/wanted to clear my Skype history. I’ll ask them about it.
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val rushton says:
Unless this omission is rectified I will be deleting Skype from my iphone

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