APP OF THE DAY - Skype (iPad)
Skype decided to reveal itself, return to the app store, and the finally emerge triumphant following what the company called "premature release" (hehe).
It is now here to stay, providing a 3G capable alternative to Apple's own FaceTime, complete with all the other Skype SMS, landline and contact goodness that makes the program such a good VoIP client.
Until now it has only been possibly to use Skype on the iPad by using the conventional iPhone app and enlarging it to fit the screen. It wasn't particularly pretty and a native Skype app was sorely missed from the iPad.
The new app is slick, boasts a portrait and landscape sensitive UI and offers an easy way to get video calling on your Apple tablet.
Skype is just a quick download and it is up and running straight away on your iPad. A brief login and your contact list will populate. The app is split between a conversation window and a contacts list kept on the left.
When video calling in landscape this all drops away and things go full screen, giving you a nice clean video chat experience. It is exactly how the app should be, using all the iPad's screen estate to display video. Video quality was about as good as you would expect over a decent Wi-Fi connection. Things naturally lose a bit of quality when you are using 3G and battery life takes more of a hit.
Conversations are managed by a menu on the left, which allows you to switch between different chats and a box on the right, which shows exactly what you have been saying. There is also popover text boxes that you can tap to open when having a video conversation with someone, if you prefer writing than hearing the sound of your own voice.
The contact selection menu is particularly nice, grouping everyone you have on Skype into their various lists and placing them in little photo app style piles. You can then select individual groups and select exactly who you want to chat to. Their are also things like offline and online people being put into groups automatically, just as the desktop client does.
Skype for iPad feels like the best possible video chat client for Apple's iPad 2. The inclusion of a front facing camera on the new tablet makes it the perfect device to use with the new Skype app. It gets a step up over FaceTime by being 3G compatible, meaning you can have video calls while out on the go. Sure it is a bit of a battery drainer and feels like a one way instant messaging client on the first gen iPad (no camera), but as a free alternative to Apple's native app you can't get much better.