Skype releases free iPad app

Skype makes its debut on the iPad. So how does it stack up?

The Skype iPad app is live. Here, a screenshot from the desktop version of Skype.

On Tuesday, Skype released an iPad-optimized version of its popular Internet-phone and video-chat app, and judging by early consumer reviews on iTunes – there are already hundreds – the app is likely to get a warm reception. Some details: The Skype software is free, and clocks in at about 16 MBs. You can use either a 3G or a Wi-Fi connection to call both landlines and cellphones, or to chat with other iPad and desktop users. Video below.

So how does the iPad version of Skype stack up? Well, over at Venture Beat, Sean Ludwig takes a spin on the new app, and likes what he sees, mostly. He found that the program occasionally seizes up when a user tries to switch between the contracts list and other options; there was also some lag time on new contact requests. But resolution! Let's talk about that resolution. The video quality is very good, Ludwig writes – even better than FaceTime.

"In the most important category of video quality, Skype slaughters FaceTime," Ludwig argues. "Skype allows up to 720p (1280×720) resolution at up to 30 FPS across its various platforms. FaceTime for the iPad and iPhone only allows 320×240 resolution at 10 FPS, while FaceTime for the Mac allows 720p. [A colleague] and I briefly tested FaceTime after using Skype for iPad and noticed a dramatic reduction in video quality."

Horizons readers will remember that Skype, which first launched in 2003 – and has slowly been scooping up users ever since – was purchased in May by Microsoft. The sale price? A $8.5 billion. At the time, reps for both companies said Microsoft will get full access to Skype's range of desktop and mobile apps; in exchange, Microsoft will use Skype to help power in-house products such as the Xbox 360 and the fleet of Windows phones.

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