Mike Isaac

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With Android Revamp, Skype Aims to Be a Bigger Player in Mobile Messaging

skypemobileToday’s popular wisdom: He who owns the messaging space owns the fastest-growing method of communication across the world.

It’s only natural, then, that Skype try to angle itself in. The Microsoft-owned video and chat messaging service has an installed base of more than half a billion, with customers using VOIP to communicate internationally via video and voice calls. But despite having decent messaging traffic, messages haven’t been Skype’s strong suit.

No more. Skype unveiled a significant UI and design revamp of its Android product, drastically emphasizing and reengineering the way users access the messaging part of the application.

Aside from a slick new look, the user experience changes bring messaging to the forefront. Contact conversation history is emphasized over profile pages. Stability is improved, and battery consumption is reduced, making it easier for messaging enthusiasts to spend more time in the app without worrying about crashes or power drain. The interface is uniform across all devices, so moving between platforms is easy and familiar.

On one hand, the update should be considered table stakes by now. It’s a communication app, after all — it better be easy for people to use it to communicate.

But on the other hand, Skype has long been known more for its voice and video calling services, and less so for its messaging capabilities. That’s a problem for a service with an international foothold, whose major intent is to increase users and messaging traffic.

Focusing on Android, for now, is a smart move. Unlike some other operating systems (read: Apple’s iOS), Android is installed on thousands of devices, many of which are incredibly cheap. To grab a wider audience abroad, you’ve got to target the Android users. Skype’s current Android installed base is certainly respectable, weighing in at a healthy 100 million.

Still, there are contenders to the messaging throne. WhatsApp has upward of 250 million active users. KakaoTalk just hit the 100 million user mark. Japan’s Line, China’s WeChat — all are carving out their stake in the market. And of course there’s Facebook Messenger, which wants to take over the world.

Skype’s efforts are admirable, and the new app looks good. It’ll be interesting to see if the market for messaging isn’t too crowded already.


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