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Skype Group Video Chats Arrive On iOS, Android

Microsoft officially launches group video chats for smartphones and tablets running iOS and Android.

9 Skype Alternatives Worth Considering
9 Skype Alternatives Worth Considering
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Microsoft has officially begun the rollout of free group video chats to Skype on iOS and Android mobile devices.

The feature will first arrive on smartphones and tablets across North America and Western Europe, where it will be available in about a week. Microsoft promises mobile group chats will be globally available by March.

The company initially announced the beta version of this feature in January, to mark the 10-year anniversary of Skype's video chats. Users were given the option to pre-register and test group video calling on mobile devices. Microsoft reports "tens of thousands" chose to do so.

[The US Dept. of Defense has started a massive Windows 10 rollout.]

After about one month of undergoing preview tests, the mobile group chat feature is ready for the general public.

The group video calls will be done in HD and optimized for the specific device at hand, Microsoft stated in a blog post on the news. A maximum of 25 people can participate in each call, a major increase from the previous maximum of 5 callers.

Some may view the increase as an opportunity to chat with their entire extended family, as Microsoft describes on the blog. However, it could also prove handy for business users: A 25-person cap provides plenty of room to hold conference calls with your team.

Clear audio comes from the SILK Super Wide Band audio codec in Microsoft's cloud conferencing stack. The tech giant teamed up with Intel to optimize SILK Audio for Azure running on Intel processors.

Video is immersive and full-screen, with the speaker displayed front-and-center. Users have the option to switch between two viewing modes, grid view and focus view, during the call.

Grid view, intended to make you "feel like you're in the same room," makes all participants' images equally sized. In focus view, Skype automatically focuses on the active speaker or lets you select a participant to "pin" to the main window. The latter works well for larger groups, Skype noted.

Inviting attendees will now be easier for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. You will be able to add attendees to pre-existing Skype chats, even if the invitee is not on your contact list or doesn't have a Skype account.

If you want to invite someone to chat, you can share the call's unique link via email, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, or another messaging service. Skype members who click the link can join via Skype; nonmembers can hop on the call via Skype for Web.

(Image: Microsoft)

(Image: Microsoft)

To use the group calling feature, you'll have to be on the latest version of Skype.

Free group video chats are new to Skype, but they're not new to the mobile world. Google Hangouts and Oovoo already offer this feature, though it's worth noting Facebook Messenger and FaceTime do not.

That said, Skype has an enormous audience of users to adopt the group calls. Microsoft has said more than 750 million people have downloaded the calling app on iPhone, iPad, Android device, and Windows Phone.

In its original January announcement, Microsoft included Windows 10 Mobile as one of the platforms to receive Skype's new group calling feature. Today's announcement did not include an update on Windows 10 Mobile, a sign that the app is still in the works.

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Kelly is an associate editor for InformationWeek. She most recently reported on financial tech for Insurance & Technology, before which she was a staff writer for InformationWeek and InformationWeek Education. When she's not catching up on the latest in tech, Kelly enjoys ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
2/21/2016 | 9:55:07 PM
Re: Thanks, Microsoft
"Some may view the increase as an opportunity to chat with their entire extended family" I agree. I always prefer to be connected with my extended family to make sure continuous communication with them. I would definitely like this feature.
User Rank: Ninja
2/19/2016 | 10:36:34 AM
Re: Thanks, Microsoft

@Harold I am not sure about your observation but my experience with skype is a good one. In my opinion the decrerase in number of skype user is not other than the sheer competition. I have been using wechat, watsapp and imo also. I believe that the launch of competitors make it difficult for people to decide about what to use. What do you say?

User Rank: Ninja
2/19/2016 | 10:30:45 AM

I am an avid user of skype but the quality of voice as well as video decreases with internet speed even with one caller. Once 25 people will be chatting at same time it will be using the same bandwidth or we require faster connection. I think these questioins will be answered in due course of time after its official launch.

User Rank: Apprentice
2/18/2016 | 5:47:55 PM
Thanks, Microsoft
Why did it take you this long to bring in this feature that has been present in other VOIP systems for years? Why have you done nothing to dispell the feeling that Skype is tapped directly by the NSA, and goodness knows who else? Why is it the case that ever since you acquired Skype the changes to it have been little more than eye candy? Why do you think that people are abandoning Skype in the droves?
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