Skype has announced some new upcoming features that are sure to please users of its desktop and mobile applications. Some updates are readily available, while some will be released in the upcoming months.
Group video calling is now a free feature. Previously, at least one user in a group call was required to have a Premium account, carried a fee of $4.99 for a day pass or $8.99 per month. The feature is now available at no charge for users on a PC desktop, Mac desktop and Xbox One gaming console. The PC and Mac desktop users can video chat with a group of up to 10 users, while Xbox One users are able to video call with up to four users.
Future updates will allow free group video calling on other platforms as well. The Skype website states that the Premium plan has been removed for a “refresh.” The future of the Premium plan has not been revealed and any new paid features have not yet been announced. Skype is sure to have some plans to keep users paying for features on its video calling app.
Some upcoming Skype features are largely integrated into Microsoft’s operating systems. The Windows Phone 8.1 update will include voice calling that can switch directly to Skype video calls. Users will now see an extra button on the call screen to switch to a Skype call. If the caller’s contact includes their Skype username, the user can click on the Skype button to switch the voice call to a video call. Once the button is clicked, the phone will ready the video call and switch over so that the call is uninterrupted.
Another Skype feature on the Windows Phone 8.1 is the integration of its personal assistant, Cortana. Once the search feature is launched, the user can ask the personal assistant to connect to a contact by Skype video call. This feature will not be included in the first release of Windows Phone 8.1, but will be released in the upcoming months.
Another great feature has been added to the desktop version of Windows 8.1. The new update will allow the Skype icon to be added to the taskbar so that users can launch the application from the desktop. This feature, along with the ability to add the application icon to the lock screen, allows the user to launch and switch to the application faster than before.
The Android version of Skype has also seen a much needed upgrade. Users on the mobile phone platform have noticed a large battery drain while the app was left open to accept and place video calls. The update improves battery life by fixing a bug in KitKat that caused a process to continue to run in the background because the camera is linked to the app. Also, push notifications from group chat has been disabled by default until a complete fix has been developed. Skype claims that users can now keep running the app all day without noticeable battery drain.
With the latest and upcoming features, Skype is trying to become the go-to app for video calling. Skype has stated that all the updates and features are the results of user demand and hopes that the application will be used in a more social, easy and fun way.
By Raul Hernandez