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Hands-on with Skype's new video-messaging service

Skype announced Monday that its video-messaging service is now out of beta and free to all users.

Skype announced Monday that its video-messaging service, which allows users to send a video of three minutes or less to their Skype contacts, is now out of beta and free to all users.

The new feature launched in a limited preview in February, offering non-premium subscribers a maximum of 20 video messages for free and unlimited video messaging for Skype Premium customers. Starting Monday, almost anyone can send as many free video messages as they like to their Skype contacts.

No love for Windows Phone

The new feature is available on most Skype-friendly platforms including the traditional Windows desktop, Windows 8 modern UI, Mac OS X, Android, BlackBerry, and iOS.

But Windows Phone is conspicuously absent from the platform list for the new feature.

Despite being a Microsoft-owned service, Skype on Windows Phone often lags behind its counterparts on the more popular Android and iOS platforms. Skype for Windows Phone only saw its official release in April 2012, about a year after Microsoft acquired the Internet telephony company, while Skype has been on Android and iOS for several years.

We've reached out to Microsoft to see if the company has a target date for bringing Skype's video messaging feature to Windows Phone.

Hands on with video messaging

Trying out the new video-messaging feature on a Nexus 4 running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean was very straightforward. To get started, pick any Skype contact from the app's contact list. It doesn't matter if the contact is online or offline, but they must be actual Skype users.

In my tests, this feature would not work with Messenger contacts that have migrated over to Skype. That may change once the worldwide Messenger-to-Skype conversion is complete but, for now, this feature is for Skype only.

After selecting a Skype contact, tap the "More" option if the video-messaging option isn't immediately available. Also note that, without a Webcam hooked up to your PC, Skype may not show the video-messaging option.

On the next screen, record the video message with a maximum time limit of three minutes. There are options to add a title and short text message to the video, as well as the possibility to cancel or re-record your Skype video message.

Devices with front- and rear-facing cameras can use either camera to record video. Sent video messages appear as an instant message, and recipients should see an alert for it the next time they log in to Skype.

Overall, sending a Skype video message is a snap, but whether anyone will use it is another question.

Facebook used to offer the option to post video messages taken with your PC's webcam right from the news feed. That option has since disappeared, but you can leave video messages through Facebook's Skype integration and through its mobile apps.

Even with those options, the world's largest social network is hardly awash in video messages.

The Skype version is currently buried behind more frequently used options such as voice and video calling, as well as instant messaging, so anyone that wants to use this feature will have to seek it out.

Perhaps one day leaving video messages will become a natural extension of Skype's popular video-calling feature.

For now, Skype's new feature will probably end up like Facebook's, an option that is not popular, but available for the small number of users who want it.

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