It has been a pretty hectic holiday season for the folks at Skype with a new iteration of their iPhone app launching this week, finally providing support for two-way video calls over 3G and Wi-Fi connections. After the Skype outage the previous week plus a recent crackdown on VOIP apps in China, some good news for the company ends the year on a much-needed high note.
The new Skype app will allow for you to make video calls with other Skype users over 3G and Wi-Fi with people on an iPhone, PC or Mac. If your iPhone has front and rear cameras you can switch between them even during calls. Unfortunately screen-sharing won't work from a mobile device, but you can view a shared screen from someone using Skype on a Mac.
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As you might expect, turning your phone from landscape to portrait orientation will cause the Skype app to adjust and flip to the appropriate mode. Double-tapping will send the picture to full-screen, and double-tapping again will switch the view back as it was.
Skype promoted the launch of this new version with a user-submitted video project, asking people the world over to record their respective New Year's Eve celebrations.
Of course Skype is bringing video-calling to the iPhone after Apple's FaceTime brought the same function. The key difference here is that Skype's video calling will work over a 3G network connection, and not just over Wi-Fi like FaceTime. Skype also benefits from a much larger user base, over half a billion strong.
Video-calling capabilities on an iPhone/iPad should win over some new users to the service, especially those who received new iOS devices for Christmas. As mentioned above, this is a timely announcement for Skype which faced a day-long outage last week due to a problem with the company's Windows application.
Skype is also now faced with sudden vocal opposition from China's Ministry of Industry an Information Technology against any 'unauthorized' VOIP services besides those from state-owned China Telecom and China Unicom.
Stay tuned to our CES coverage this month to see if there are any other Skype announcements from Las Vegas. I'm crossing my fingers for more Skype TVs!