With more than 500 million user accounts worldwide, Skype is one of the most popular free VoIP services around. Skype is probably most famous for its video-chat service, but it also provides telephony (the paid Skype-out feature even allows you to call landline and mobile phone numbers) and text-chat services. We recently reviewed Skype for iPhone; Skype for Android is the company's answer to Google Android smartphone owners.
The Skype for Android VoIP service lets you text-chat and make Skype voice calls using a Wi-Fi or 3G connection. Note that you may be charged for using your phone's data connection, though, and Skype for Android can't do video chat. Since most Android phones don't have a front-facing camera, the lack of video chat isn't surprising. Still, it would be nice to see this feature available for phones that can take advantage of it.
Using the Skype for Android VoIP service is fairly straightforward. To begin, log in or create a Skype account if you don't already have one. Skype deserves credit for making it possible to create an account with the app. You can upload a profile photo and add details to your user profile right from the phone.
If you are already a Skype user, the Skype for Android VoIP service lets you integrate your Skype Contacts with your Android Contacts - a huge time-saver.
Making calls is straightforward: just select or type in a contact, push the Call button, and the call begins. In our tests, Skype for Android's sound quality was adequate but not stellar. Conversation was intelligible, but often accompanied by static or a very slight delay. None of these defects were significant enough to hinder conversation in this VoIP app, however.
During a call, you can mute the microphone or even pause the connection. A speakerphone option is also available, but it was not loud enough to be useful in a noisy environment. Skype for Android's speakerphone setting also seemed to be vulnerable to feedback. This feature needs some work.
When receiving calls, you see the caller ID along with your caller's profile picture. The Skype for Android VoIP service also lets you add the caller to your Contacts.
Text chatting in Skype for Android works just like most instant messaging services. You can connect to several people at once in the same chat. However, you can't send photos or files using this VoIP service, which is disappointing.
Skype-to-Skype calls are free with Skype for Android, but you can also purchase Skype Credit to make calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. Charges are by the minute, and vary according to the country you are calling. You can purchase additional Skype Credit within the VoIP app.