The disadvantages of mobile Skype

The disadvantages of mobile Skype

Summary: Skype video calls are now possible on most mobile platforms, and the reality of being always on may be a disadvantage.


Skype has been on a roll since entering into an agreement to be purchased by Microsoft. The audio and video calling service has been appearing on many new mobile devices. Skype has been a standard for video calls by workers for years on the desktop, and it's rapidly becoming available to mobile device users on most platforms. This week a version of Skype hit the popular iPad, joining Android and HP webOS tablets that can do Skype video calls. While Skype hitting the mobile scene has its advantages, it brings some disadvantages.

Skype video call quality is decent on most devices, and this can be a boon for mobile workers needing to put a personal touch on business communications. That benefit comes with a downside however, as business contacts once exposed to video calls with a colleague tend to expect the ability to do it whenever they want. It is similar to the time when mobile phones started gaining prominence. Colleagues, and even worse bosses, began to expect workers to be available 24/7 due to the phone in the pocket. The same is already starting to happen with mobile Skype as clients and co-workers want to reach out and see someone right now.

Many folks have Skype running all the time on the desktop, and now must think about everywhere else they might have it running. I sometimes have Skype running on my MacBook, my Nexus S 4G smartphone, and either my HP TouchPad or my Galaxy Tab. I have to remember to sign out of Skype on all devices I am not actively using at a particular time so I am not logged in on multiple gadgets. It is important that Skype shows potential callers whether you are available or not, and with multiple devices running it you may indicate you are available when you really aren't. This increases the risk of missing incoming calls or IM chats if they appear on one gadget and not the one in hand at the time.

This happened to me today as I prepared to have a video call with a colleague on my Nexus S 4G. I pinged him with a Skype text message to check availability for a video call, and we planned it for later in the day. A little later I picked up the TouchPad to do some things and found a notification from him for a new message. It was great to get this on the TouchPad, as I happened to be working on it at the time, but I could see how easily some communications could get lost in the mobile device shuffle. In my mind when I put down the phone, my IM conversation with him ended. He didn't know that and kept sending me messages. Because I was also logged into Skype on the TouchPad, my colleague didn't realize I had stepped away from my phone. Had I not happened to pick up the TouchPad I would have missed his new messages.

It may be possible to stay logged into Skype on all the devices at once, but that will likely confuse the service when calls come in. It would certainly set off a cacophony of rings if multiple devices go off for incoming calls. Since most of us aren't used to having Skype running on multiple devices (and platforms) at the same time, it is worth mentioning.

Skype video calls are a great way to have both business and personal conversations, but having this ability on most mobile gadgets emphasizes the need to unplug occasionally. Logging out and stepping away from Skype from time to time may be good for the sanity.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration, Mobility

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  • RE: The disadvantages of mobile Skype

    So instead of just typing "Bye", you want a program to do it for you. Honestly, I'd rather have it this way. I love Windows Live messenger because it lets me send and receive offline messages (and to be fair, I believe Skype allows this too). There might be some important information in those messages after you "hung up".
    • RE: The disadvantages of mobile Skype

      @Aerowind Windows Live Messenger also allows you to be logged into multiple machines at the same time and still receive ims on all of them. I'm sure Skype will be improved to handle this in the future.
  • RE: The disadvantages of mobile Skype

    What you say about automatic logging out or turn to "idle" when the display is turned off (in mobiles/tablets) seems to be a bug to me.. I am sure that will be corrected very soon.
  • A good use for NFC?

    This isn't really a video problem - it's due to any multi-device communication protocol with or without video. I use Skype, but really Gmail and Google Chat and Voice more often, since I'm pretty much always logged on to Gmail on any device I'm using. And you have similar problems - you really need to log out of Gmail on any device you leave so it doesn't 'ring' when you've moved on to something else.

    These services all need to develop a better method of detecting the user's presence and availability. About all you get at this point is, Skype for instance can detect a lack of user activity on the desktop app for a certain period of time and show the user as being away. Or your laptop might go to sleep and obviously you would be unavailable. But nothing like that is really on the mobile apps AFAIK.

    It seem like this might be a good use for the new Near Field Comm. radio techniques. Assuming your phone was always on your person, for instance, your laptop or computer or tablet would sense when the phone was nearby and transfer your 'presence' to the larger device, and then transfer back to the phone when proximity is lost. Something like that.

    OR, maybe you have a NFC transmitter on your keychain. This way if you leave your phone somewhere you still get logged on to some other device. Or you can hang your keychain NFC on the wall and away from your phone (or just switch it off) when you don't want to be disturbed.

    Of course this means that all devices need NFC chips and I don't have a single one at this point!
  • Just change the device currently being used to available

    Once one of the devices starts being used, it should become or stay available, and the others put to sleep (Skype that is).
  • RE: The disadvantages of mobile Skype

    Never quite got around to commenting on the ipad thing - but I've been able to use video on my ipod touch's Skype for a long time - why has this been problematic on the ipad? Don't they use the same OS?
  • RE: The disadvantages of mobile Skype

    I tried it on my android and then removed it. I got tired of being asked did I want to make the call on Skype or the phone. It was especially irritating when trying to make a call from the Bluetooth connection in the car.
  • shawlatest_jamesclyde39

    <a href="" rel="nofollow">Shaw Capital Management</a><br>This can get much worse. Most people do not realize the horrors of being connected ALWAYS. That's just terrible - work reaching you everywhere.
  • I fail to see the disadvantage...

    Skype saves a copy of all your conversations if you enable it. Each device downloads it automatically when you connect (at least it does with my trio of desktop, laptop, and mobile device). It has for YEARS. I was using skype on multiple devices since it came out, and have the three accounts to show for it, because *old man voice* back in my day, you couldn't log into two different devices one the same account */old man voice*

    AIM, MSN, GT all do the same thing (though GT does try to send messages to your last device, which i find more annoying that going to all your toys. They make up for it with logging all your chat history so you can check and see what you miss). This is not so much a problem as the need to adjust yourself to practice proper etiquette. If you can't tell a person that you will step away, expect a person to keep trying to reach you. What you did was the equivalent of hanging up on someone without saying goodbye and they keep talking to no one on the cell phone--just as rude too, man.

    Then again Rihanna likes a rude boy, so...can't be all bad...

    Actually, i was expecting to see something along the lines of "mobile bandwidth spike for video calls, can providers keep up with the trend?" especially seeing how AT&T buckled with the iPhone, or "How will underage teens use this leap forward in live video technology in the age of sexting and self made porn", or "People (work or significant other) seeing that we are lying when we say that we are sick or almost there"...and we really aren't ;). the lady friend can contact you any time with live video for the "does this dress make me look fat?" question. And she'll want a quick answer too. And she can see your face. And you can't ignore her. ANY WHERE YOU ARE...Gah! The HORROR!
    Genesis Factor