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Skype

Free
Reviewed
July 2013
by ConsumerSearch
Skype

Pros
  • Calls to other Skype users worldwide are free
  • Video conferencing
  • Cheap rates to call landlines
  • Cheap international calling
Cons
  • Variable voice quality
  • No 911 service

Bottom line

Professional reviewers and users alike love Skype (Free) because it allows you to have free PC-to-PC VoIP calls or video calls with other Skype users. Skype isn't designed to replace your regular phone, but reviews say it's still the best way to place free international calls.

Performance

Call quality varies greatly. Skype has a big fan club among reviewers. Most reviews say Skype's call quality is usually good when calling from one PC to another, but quality on calls to landline phones can vary greatly. However, these reviewers call Skype's video quality "lackluster" and "mediocre."

Plans and costs

Free between Skype users worldwide. With Skype, you can make free voice, video computer-to-computer calls and conference calls (or mobile-to-mobile calls) to anyone, anywhere in the world -- as long as the person you're calling has also downloaded the free Skype application onto their computer or mobile phone. For calls to or from a non-Skype phone, you'll have to pay.

Unlimited calls to landlines and non-Skype mobile phones in the U.S. and Canada cost $5 per month. For unlimited calls to landlines in 40 countries, it's $14 per month (calls to international mobile phones cost extra). Or, you can avoid monthly charges by buying prepaid minutes, starting around 2 cents per minute.

Features

An addition to your primary phone. Some experts say Skype isn't VoIP per se, but something different -- peer-to-peer technology that requires a special headset and microphone or a dedicated Skype phone. Compared to other VoIP services, Skype is light on the features it offers. Video and voice calls are free to anyone on Skype, and you also get free instant messaging and file sharing. Calls to mobile and landlines, text messaging and group video calls are available at extra cost. You can also have your Skype calls forwarded to any phone when you're not on your computer.

Our Sources

1. ConsumerReports.org

Skype is among those listed in the separate chart on phone services in this report about bundled services. Twelve VoIP and VoIP-type services are ranked alongside landline phone services. However, the ratings chart is available only to subscribers.

Review: Phone Service Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, May 2011

2. PCMag.com

PCMag.com recommends the use of Skype for video calling with devices with front-facing cameras. However, the authors state that the video calls take a while to connect and the picture quality "leaves much to be desired."

Review: Skype 3.5 (for iPhone), Jamie Lendino , Alex Colon and Jill Duffy, Oct. 21, 2011

3. Macworld

Despite the Mac version of Skype being "clunky," Friedman states that the Skype iOS app works well and is great for both voice and video chats. Skype for iPhone works over both wi-fi and the cellular network.

Review: Review: Skype Remains a Fine VoIP, Video Chatting Option on iOS, Lex Friedman, Apr. 30, 2013

4. PCMag.com

Awarding the Skype service on a Windows Phone 3 out of 5 stars, PCMag.com editors like its excellent voice quality and its interface. But they are disappointed by its inability to run in the background, which means you have to sign out every time the app is closed.

Review: Skype 1.0 (for Windows Phone), Sara Yin and Alex Colon, April 30, 2012

5. Laptop Magazine

Kenneth Butler of Laptop Magazine recommends Skype primarily for its large user base, and its use on a variety of devices. He comments that, although Skype is popular for video chats, it has "lackluster" video quality on mobile devices.

Review: Skype Mobile Review, Kenneth Butler, Aug. 4, 2011

6. TopTenReviews.com

Skype ranks ninth among 20 VoIP providers that are rated here, with the editors of TopTenReviews.com praising its low prices and recommending the service for those on a budget. Testing is not documented.

Review: Skype, Editors of TopTenReviews.com, Not dated

7. DSLReports.com

Over 30 users review and rate Skype here -- not enough for editors to give it an overall rating. Skype's technical support gets some low ratings on this website.

Review: Skype, Contributors to DSLReports.com, As of July 2013

8. The New York Times

This overview of long-distance calling options tests Skype and magicJack, also comparing both with Vonage and Ooma. Call quality on Skype is judged "spotty."

Review: Talk Is Cheap, if You Ask, Eric A. Taub, April 29, 2009

9. SpotCoolStuff.com

This review compares Skype with two other popular VoIP services, Vonage and magicJack -- based on tests of call quality as well as other factors. (Comparisons with Ooma follow in a March 2009 article.) Skype is recommended for its inexpensive international calls, but Vonage provides more consistently good call quality.

Review: MagicJack vs. Vonage vs. Skype, Editors of SpotCoolStuff.com, Feb. 6, 2009

VoIP Runners Up:

Vonage Est. $12 per month and up

2 picks including: About.com, The New York Times…

Skype Free

1 pick including: Laptop Magazine, Macworld…

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