WhatsApp vs. Skype

Both are valuable tools, but the best choice depends on your situation

Skype has contributed enormously to allowing people to use VoIP—the technology used to make free voice calls worldwide—on their computers. WhatsApp has done the same job for smartphones. We reviewed both to help you decide which is the better choice for you.

WhatsApp vs. Skype

Overall Findings

Skype
  • Best for users who call primarily using computers and tablets.

  • More robust feature set.

  • Free.

  • A premium account is available.

WhatsApp
  • Best for users who call mostly from their smartphones.

  • Focused on calling.

  • Free.

WhatsApp is designed for mobile devices. In contrast, Skype is mainly a computer-to-computer app that can also call other phones. When the world got more mobile, and when communication shifted from the office or home desk to the pocket, Skype lagged behind.

For instance, the apps had limitations, and some platforms were left in the dark for many years, as was BlackBerry. So, Skype is more for the computer user who wants quality, stability, features, and added sophistication to their communication experience. WhatsApp is the app for mobile users.

WhatsApp is owned by Facebook. For some people, this integration is a net positive; for others, not so much.

Skype offers other features that make this tool better for business uses:

  • The ability to call people on other platforms and outside the service (in some cases, for a fee).
  • Screen and file sharing.
  • Collaboration tools.
  • Conference video calling.
  • Advanced presence management.
  • Business-oriented extras.
  • Use of an existing phone number.

While you can install Skype on mobile devices and WhatsApp on your desktop, each is king on its territory. The case is clear. If you want free calls on your smartphone, go for WhatsApp. On your computer, go to Skype.

Number of Users: An Important Parameter in Free Calling

Skype
  • An estimated 1.33 million users, as of 2017.

WhatsApp
  • An estimated 1.5 billion users, as of 2017.

When more people use a given communications app, your chances to communicate for free are better because free VoIP communication is offered only between users of the same service.

Skype has been around longer than WhatsApp. There was a time when nearly everyone who had a computer could be contacted on Skype. But, times have changed, and presence has shifted from the desk or the lap to the hand and pocket. On smartphones, WhatsApp rules with about 1.5 billion users as of 2017, although Skype isn't far behind on desktop.

Access to Contacts: Skype Requires a Separate Buddy List

Skype
  • Uses nicknames to identify users.

  • Uses its contact list.

WhatsApp
  • Uses phone numbers to identify users.

  • Choose contacts from the phone's contact list.

Skype requires that you have the person's Skype name, which means that a prior sharing must have taken place. Skype uses a nickname to identify each user. WhatsApp uses your phone number, the element around which your mobile communication revolves. This means that if the person's phone number is in your phone's contact list, you can contact them on WhatsApp. No username or ID is required, and no prior sharing of details.

This transparency makes access to contacts easier. You don't need a separate contact list for WhatsApp. The phone's list serves the purpose. For Skype, you need a separate buddy list—but this separate list isn't always a problem, as when you're using devices managed by a corporate entity that controls some or all of your contact list based on your employment.

Call Quality: Skype's a Clear Winner

Skype
  • Proprietary codec delivers refined HD clarity.

WhatsApp
  • Decent sound, despite occasional dropped calls and echoing.

WhatsApp gives calls of decent quality, although many people complain about dropped calls and especially echo. On the other hand, Skype's call quality is among the best, if not the best, on the VoIP market. This is because Skype has a codec for call encoding, and has been refining this part of its service for the last ten years. It even offers HD voice.

Calls are of better quality with Skype than with WhatsApp, given that the factors that affect call quality are favorable. Even then, you can take troubleshooting steps when Skype doesn't work.

Cost: Ultimately Depends on Your Data Plan

Skype
  • Free, unlimited voice calling.

  • Greater call quality means greater data consumption.

WhatsApp
  • Free, unlimited voice calling.

Both Skype and WhatsApp offer free and unlimited voice calling. Both apps are free to install. So, the price battle needs to be fought on another ground: data consumption.

The great call quality of Skype comes with the price of higher data consumption. A one-minute voice call with Skype consumes more than a one-minute call with WhatsApp. While this doesn't matter on Wi-Fi, it matters a lot when using your 3G or 4G data plan to talk on the go. So, for mobile users, WhatsApp calling costs less, if cost matters more than quality.

Final Verdict

If you prefer the wealth of features and the stellar call quality, Skype is the winner. If your friends and family use WhatsApp, that's your best bet for making free calls. Another way to look at the choice: Skype, as the more business-oriented of the two, is best for the desktop and the office, whereas WhatsApp is a fine daily mobile communication app.