WhatsApp vs. Skype

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

Social Media Apps on Apple iPhone 4
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Skype has contributed enormously to allowing people to use VoIP—the technology that allows you to make free voice calls worldwide—on their computers. WhatsApp has done the same job for smartphones. We've reviewed both to help you decide which is the better choice for you.

Overall Findings

Skype

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

  • More robust feature set.

  • Free.

  • Premium account available.

WhatsApp

  • Best for users who call mostly from their smartphones.

  • Focused first on calling.

  • Free.

WhatsApp was born on mobile devices, whereas Skype was mainly a computer-to-computer app that could call other phones as well. When the world started getting more mobile and when communication ground shifted from the office or home desk to the pocket, Skype somewhat lagged behind.

For instance, the apps released 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. True, you can have Skype on mobile devices and WhatsApp on your desktop, but each is king on its territory. The case is clear here: 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.

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

Skype has been around far longer than WhatsApp. There was a time when nearly everyone who had a computer could be contacted on Skype, but now times have changed and presence has shifted from the desk or the lap to the hand and pocket; and on smartphones, WhatsApp rules, with about 1.5 billion users as of 2017, dwarfing the number of Skype users. For this reason, it is interesting to know the popularity of the leading communication apps based on their user base. 

Access to Contacts: Skype Requires a Separate Buddy List

Skype

  • Uses nicknames to identify users.

  • Uses its own contact list.

WhatsApp

  • Uses phone numbers to identify users.

  • Users can choose contacts directly from phone's contact list.

How easy is it to contact and reach a person you want to talk to? Skype requires that you get the person’s Skype name, which requires a prior sharing to 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 directly on WhatsApp. No username or ID is required, and no prior sharing of details. This makes access to contacts much easier. You don’t need to have a separate contact list for WhatsApp; the phone’s list serves the purpose; while for Skype, you need a separate buddy list.

Call Quality: Skype's a Clear Winner

Skype

  • Proprietary codec delivers refined, HD clarity.

WhatsApp

  • Decent sound, despite occasional dropped calls and echoing.

WhatsApp does give calls of decent quality, although many users have been complaining 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 its own codec for call encoding, and has been refining this part of its service for the last ten years. It even offers HD voice.

So, as at today, you are sure to make calls of much better quality with Skype than with WhatsApp, given that all the basic factors that affect call quality are favorable. Even then, you can take some simple troubleshooting steps when Skype won'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 minute of a voice call with Skype will consume more than a minute of call with WhatsApp. While this would not matter on WiFi, it does matter a lot when you are 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.

Key Features: Skype's Business Bent

  • 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.
  • Ability to use existing phone number.

Final Verdict

Your best choice depends on your situation. 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