Skype has a long way to go
Well, I spoke too soon about Skype.
Using the current release (220.127.116.11) on my HTC Hermes, I found:
– If another user calls my Skype ID, the device will not wake up – there’s no indication that there’s an incoming call. However – if I turn the device on myself (ie. out of Standby), I find the incoming call front and centre on the screen. It suggests that the device might actually be in Unattended mode, but the current release can’t actually take it out of Unattended mode. This was the same regardless of the “Do not enter standby when connected” checkbox in Skype Options.
– The latency over T-Mobile’s 3G network (HSDPA, low 1-bar signal) starts out at around 2s one-way, but within the space of a minute, this increases to over 10 seconds. Over WiFi, it’s more consistently around 2s for Skype-Skype, and around 4s for SkypeOut. Of course, you can’t sit on a WiFi connection with your device in Standby.
So, in summary:
– You can’t receive Skype calls when your device is in Standby / Unattended mode
– QoS (Quality of Service) is not currently assured, at least on T-Mobile standard WnW
Add to this previous observations
– Skype doesn’t yet support sound through the earpiece – it instead uses the device speaker, hence acts like a speakerphone
– Echo cancellation isn’t yet effective on the WM5 platform/program
– The beta is buggy and is currently more likely to not load, than load successfully
In summary: if you’re currently planning using on Skype functionality as an alternative to your standard Cellular service – maybe even skipping the option for inclusive voice minutes because – hey, you can use Skype instead! – be warned that you won’t. Even if you can live with the buggy software, will the person on the other end of the line put up with the severe echo, 4-10s latency, and your never answering (because the device won’t wake)?
And be honest; assuming that you have decided to make a Skype call; maybe you’re abroad and don’t want to pay roaming charges? By the time you’ve found a WiFi hotspot; logged in on your PPC’s tiny browser, paid the €5 for 30 minutes’ access using your credit card, connected Skype, and started the call, and are now bound to the same hotspot location until you finish… are you perhaps carrying your laptop as well? Could you have logged on using your laptop instead, and by now be in a crystal-clear, low-latency, no-echo call using your Bluetooth headset? Or simply made the standard phone call – perhaps paying only a 75p premium on your Vodafone tariff using Vodafone Passport?
Skype mobile is currently only really a gimmick, or for those with very compatible usage profiles. Any perceived cost benefits are offset by the hassle of actual trying to use it.
The question is then whether Three UK’s X-series will take off? I suspect the Symbian version of Skype will be more stable and usable, and perhaps Three may even have implented QoS measures to make sure latency is minimised; so it might be usable. We should see in the next month or so.