Skype was one of the first Internet calling services to become popular and is still a recognized household name. It is best known for its free video chat and certainly most used for that, but the company also provides some simple, low-cost VoIP services. It is notably one of the cheapest options available, but this does reflect the basic nature of the service. There are not many features and it could definitely be described as functional. It is only usable on computers, smartphones or portable devices such as iPads or tablets. The service cannot be used on a normal phone handset. This makes it more useful for residential users or freelancers who work from home.
Some experts have suggested Skype is not technically VoIP, but is actually something slightly different because you cannot use it on a phone system. Whatever you think it is, here are the features Skype has to offer:
Video and voice calls are free to anyone on Skype
Free IM and file sharing
Calls can be made to mobiles or computers for free
Call landlines (for a small fee)
Text messaging and group video calls (also for a small fee)
Call forwarding to any phone
Unlimited minutes options
Pay as you go options
Compatible with PC, Mac, all smartphones and tablets
Simple software installation
Call waiting, voicemail and caller ID
Contacts list – easy to find and call any contact
Keep current number or choose new number including area code
NB you cannot use Skype to make an emergency 911 call.
Using Skype, you can make free voice, video calls and conference calls using your computer, cell, iPad or tablet, anywhere in the world who is also using Skype. For calls to or from a non-Skype phone, you'll have to pay by country and the rates per minute vary depending on where you are calling. You also have the option to use a pay as you go system and buy Skype credit (ideal for the user who does not need to make many calls per month) where charges start at 2c per minute. Or you can become part of Skype Premium that varies from $4.99 per month (when on special offer) to $14 per month if you don’t sign up for an annual plan and only pay month on month.
Skype setup is particularly easy, given that there is no hardware to install. Download the software onto your computer or the app onto your cell phone and, once you have created a login, you can begin making calls. It is easy to add contacts too – you can do this by email address or user name.
There are FAQs and help topics listed on the website. These focus on specific aspects of the Skype and range from payment and billing questions to deeper technical issues. There are also helpful step-by-step tutorials, a VoIP terminology glossary and user forums where customers can discuss their experiences and exchange tips. To access any direct customer support you need to log in with a Skype account. There is no easily accessible number to call or live chat service. Although this could reflect Skype’s confidence in the product’s simplicity, it is definitely not ideal to have no obvious customer support.
Skype is a good, basic low-cost VoIP service. For relatively little cost, there is an unlimited plan or there are minute bundles for cheap calling to specific countries. It is very easy to install, even for those who do not consider themselves to be tech-savvy! The drawback is that the features are very basic – you can’t use Skype with a phone system other than installing it as an app on your cell / mobile phone / tablet. It is best for home users and those who want a simple, easy to understand and use service that doesn’t cost too much.