5 Things You Ignore About Skype

Microsoft acquiring Skype. Skype / Getty Images

Skype is a celebrity and everyone knows it for free calling and video conferencing. But there is more to Skype than that. There is cheap calling to all numbers worldwide, there is the huge user base and all the features. While it has been dethroned by WhatsApp in terms of popularity, Skype is still one of the most used VoIP apps. But there is a handful of other things most people ignore and that frequent Skype users want to know.

1. Skype is Not The Cheapest

We have to grant Skype the credit of pioneering VoIP and free calling to the world, as well as cheap calling. VoIP apps offer free calls to other users of the same service, but when you call to landlines and mobile numbers, the calls are paid. But as the VoIP market stands today, Skype is not among the cheapest VoIP services, despite being the giant it is. The rates per minute are distinctively higher than those of other VoIP apps, by at least 30%. 

Add to the cost the connection fee, which is a small amount of money you pay to place each prepaid call, which is in the Pay As You Go scheme. The fee applies if your call is answered and if it lasts for more than a second. This fee depends on the destination you are calling to and the currency you are paying in. Skype is among the rare VoIP apps that apply such a fee. As a matter of example, as I am writing this, a call to the United States has a rate or 2.3 dollar cents per minute with a connection fee of 4.9 cents per call. Moreover, some countries in Europe and Northern America charge users a percentage of value added tax. 

It is interesting to note that in contrast, some other VoIP services are offering calls to the US at as low as 1 dollar cent per minute, with no connection fee and no tax. 

2. HD Voice Quality

Skype has been working a lot on its voice quality and with more than a decade of presence, it provides decent and respectable HD voice quality. Of course, the quality of VoIP does not equal good old PSTN voice quality, but it does come close whenever all the determining factors unite. Most often, poor connection is to be blamed for poor quality. Knowing that, it pays to opt for good quality audio devices like headsets when using Skype. Use a high-quality web camera as well if you want to get the best communication experience in video chatting. 

Making HD calls with Skype is cool, but we also have to look at the other side of the coin. This quality comes at a price. It is indeed free for any Skype user, but it consumes a relatively greater amount of megabytes per calling unit. While this is not a problem with high-speed ADSL and WiFi networks, it is to be considered if you use Skype on your mobile device with a data plan. Typically for a Skype to Skype call, data consumed is 50 kbps (kilobits per second) or around 3 MB for each minute of call. A video call consumes between 500 and 600 kbps (according to official Skype sources). Alternatives that don't offer HD voice consume much fewer data, nearly three times less, thus saving money on mobile calls. Read more on VoIP data consumption.

3. Skype Belongs to Microsoft

Skype started alone and climbed to stardom as such. It changed hands and finally Microsoft acquired it. Now, thinking of Skype as a Microsoft product and service does change the way you consider your telephony experience ahead as a Skype user. For some, it will mean larger horizons while for others it is restraint. 

It indeed comes as an opportunity for Windows users, which make up more than three-quarters of computer users around the world. Integration with other communication and productivity tools enhances communication with Skype, especially for businesses. Skype will also become more sophisticated and robust with its integration in new Windows versions. It is even becoming browser-based with Microsoft's new browser for Windows 10 called Edge. 

On the other hand, the balance between non-conventional apps and those of companies like Apple and Microsoft is getting unhealthy with this kind of acquisition. Skype may as well getting restrained within Microsoft's often-disputed policies and closed strategies. One can always conjecture on whether the outcome would be better had Skype been acquired by a company like Google. I personally believe it would be. 

4. Skype Has Privacy Issues

Microsoft claims that Skype is secure and that your conversation and data sent is safe and private. However, remarkable information that cropped up during the recent years suggest otherwise.  For instance, there is reportedly a number of flaws in the system allowing hackers to track users' IP addresses. In 2012, we learned that Skype was collaborating with police in law enforcement endeavors by giving them access to users' personal information and online chat content. In the coming year, it was revealed that NSA and FBI were able to eavesdrop on Skype calls and chat content. In 2014, the Electronic Frontier Foundation awarded Skype only 1 over 7 in a grading for security, privacy and encryption. 

Despite this, most people do not pay heed to privacy threats over Skype as the information they share is more often not that confidential, and also because they have nothing to reproach themselves of. 

5. No Emergency Call

I know you may not be banking on Skype for 911 calls, but it is important to know that Skype does not offer emergency calls, as it is not a substitute for your traditional conventional phone line.