After a full year of speculation in 2010, things got exciting at CES 2010 when Skype announced its plans to offer an Android app with video support. Unfortunately, the company signed an exclusive partnership with Verizon Wireless limiting availability to the masses. Fast forward nearly six months and a Skype app with video support is still not available on a single Android device for Verizon Wireless. Although there is no official word, there is a good chance that the agreement may have fallen through. For those wondering, it is unlikely this broken partnership has anything to do with Microsoft’s decision to acquire Skype for $8.5 billion.
“We are committed to bring Skype Video Calling to as many platforms as possible and are delighted to deliver on this with our new updated Skype for Android app,” said Neil Stevens, Skype’s vice president and general manager for product and marketing. “With approximately 30 million concurrent users logging into Skype at any given time and making up to half a million simultaneous video calls, Skype for Android with video makes it even easier for users to share moments with their contacts wherever they are.”
Things took a turn for the better earlier today when the company issued a press release to announce their latest Android app. The entirely new revamped version supports person-to-person video calls over either 3G or WiFi networks on the HTC Desire S, Sony Ericsson Xperia neo, Sony Ericsson Xperia pro and the Google Nexus S. Those who do not have one of these four smart phones can still update to the new version from the Android Market, but the video capabilities are hidden until Skype enables it. I was able to upgrade to the new version on the HTC Sensation 4G (T-Mobile) without any issues and as expected the video capabilities are missing.
While I unfortunately do not have one of the few video chat compatible phones, I should say that the new app is a major improvement over the older version even when it comes to the regular set of features. It remains running in the background without shutting down randomly. I can still make calls over 3G, 4G, and WiFi to both Skype user and traditional phone lines. Chatting or sending text message is fully supported too. The interface is also a whole lot cleaner and fancier with shortcuts for the contacts list, recent activity, the dial pad, and your profile.
I just hope Skype continues to deliver with updates to support a wider range of devices soon. Google Talk now offers video chat on select devices and will likely ship out of the box within a matter of time — a major potential competitor. While Skype already acquired Qik, other mobile video chatting solutions such as Tango are already gaining ground too.