For the longest time, users of Android smartphones could only watch in envy while their iOS-totting friends were happily utilizing Skype's services to initiate video calls among their fellow iOS users, but it seems that things are about to change for the better very soon. This is because Skype just announced the availability of an updated client which it has confirmed will be bringing that missing feature to the Android platform. Android users, let the video calls begin.
Skype may have been present on mobile platforms for a long time, but the unfortunate truth is that the Android version of Skype still has some way to go before it can be proclaimed to have finally achieved feature-parity with the one that is currently available for Apple's iOS. This is especially true, considering how Skype for Android still lacks support for video calls, a feature that was made available for iOS 4 in late December last year.
However, just as good things always comes to those who wait, it would seem that today is the day Android users can finally have something to phone home about, for Skype has just announced the availability of an updated version of its Android client, which is designed to bring that missing feature to what is currently recognized as "the fastest growing mobile OS".
According to the official press release, Skype for Android 2.0 will allow users of Android-powered smartphones to "make and receieve free 1-1 video calls over Skype between their Android phone", as well as with other Skype contacts who are making use of the service on other platforms. In addtion, the client will work with both WiFi and 3G data connections, although Skype recommends the use of a "strong WiFi connection" for best results.
Users will also notice that the user interface for Skype's new client has been given an overhaul, as shown in the image below. According to Skype, this was done to ensure that users can easily gain direct access to all of the key functions that are available in the client.
Of course, in addition to video calls, users can also continue to make use of Skype's services as a means to make calls to landlines and mobiles, as well as send SMS’s to their friends and family members under Skype's existing rates.
That being said, you might want to hold your horses first. VR-Zone was given the opportunity to interview Skype's Mark Douglas, who confirmed that support for video calls is currently limitted to only four devices in the initial rollout, and they are HTC's Desire S, Sony Ericsson's Xperia neo and Xperia pro and Google's Nexus S, although Skype has confirmed that more devices will be added to its compatibility list in time.
However, there is no way to get the feature working on unsupported phones, as Douglas has confirmed that the app is closed-ended. This means that devices which fulfill the minium requirements (Android 2.3 + meets the OS's video requirements) but are not on the compatibility list will be locked out from making video calls via Skype on their smartphone, although they will still have access to all the other services.
Also, those of you who are hoping for a greater degree of integration of Skype into Android will probably be disapointed to know that the company has got no plans to do so, but that is only because the developers are limitted to what Google allows them to do via the SDK. And last but defintiely not least, no, group video conferencing is not available on this new release, although Douglas did suggest that such a feature might eventually make its way into future versions of its mobile Skype client once smartphones gain access to much more powerful and capable hardware.