Skype for BlackBerry 10.1: Feature Rich Mobile Conversations

S4BB10.ActiveFrames.SkypeOne announcement during last week’s BlackBerry Live keynote was the availability of BlackBerry 10.1 for the BlackBerry Z10. Which also meant that Skype for BlackBerry 10.1 (Preview), previously available on the Q10, became available for the BlackBerry Z10.

I had been testing it out on my Z10 for the previous couple of weeks and basically came to the conclusion that, finally, I had a mobile version of Skype that allowed me to walk away from my home office PC and still have access to all the key features of Skype. Just as significantly it is on a unique platform where Skype’s performance approaches the speed and spontaneity experienced when using Skype on my PC. This was confirmed during BlackBerry Live where I had Skype for BlackBerry 10 open most of the week while attending sessions and networking with attendees.

Here are the Skype features I have confirmed on Skype for BlackBerry 10:

  • Free Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls.
  • Instant Messaging with individuals
    • chat and presence
    • access chat history (up to 2 weeks)
  • Participate in Group Chats
  • Set up Group Chats
  • Participate in (but not host) Group Voice calls
  • Send and receive files via File Transfer
  • Send and receive video messages
  • Place SkypeOut calls to landline and mobile numbers
  • Receive calls via Skype Online number(s)
  • Send SMS messages
  • Access Contacts in both Skype Directory and BlackBerry 10 Contacts
    • Filter by All, Online, Favorites, BlackBerry 10 or personal Lists
  • Access to call technical information

Here are some example screen shots (click on the image below to bring up the slide show; click anywhere on the right or left side of an image for “Next” or “Previous” respectively):

Getting Started

Voice and Video Calls, Video Message

Create Group, File Transfer, Additional Screenshots

S4BB10.S4WPromotionThere are three features of the BlackBerry 10 that play a significant role in making Skype for BlackBerry 10 unique when it comes to the user interface:

  • The predictive text keyboard is available for all chat messaging, editing and search activity. I have written about this feature previously.
  • Background processing: When Skype goes into an Active Frame it continues to run; it simply takes a tap to bring it back to the foreground where you left it when going to another application. No need to hit a button or wait for the application to re-open or to resync conversations when you want it.
  • Notification of all Skype activity in the Hub (see below for details)

I could put as a fourth unique feature the ability to change the battery but hopefully the final version of Skype for BlackBerry 10 will also minimize battery drain when running (especially in the background). 

As it is a Preview version, there are a couple of caveats:

  • Upon initially installing Skype for BlackBerry 10, let the application run for 15 to 45 minutes as it does the integration into your BlackBerry contacts. Only then is it ready to participate in chat, voice and video conversations. It took about 30 minutes to integrate my >800 Skype contacts. This is a one time delay when first opening it after installation.  Based on a Built for BlackBerry presentation at BlackBerry Live I would hope to see a progress bar during this period in future updates.
  • While you can login with your SkypeID, logging with the Microsoft ID incorporates your Live Messenger contacts provided you have linked your two accounts.

S4BB10.HubNotificationsWhile it is an Android port there is some “native” integration. When Skype for BlackBerry 10 was announced, Skype issued the following statement”

“You are correct that the Skype app coming to BlackBerry 10 is our very popular Skype for Android app. We are excited that BlackBerry is enabling Android apps like Skype for Android run great on BB10, and are fully supporting the Android runtime environment and Android tools for BlackBerry 10. This allows us to leverage our existing Skype for Android development efforts to quickly have the latest version of our app (Skype for Android 3.1) ready for BlackBerry 10. We are closely collaborating with BlackBerry to ensure the app runs well and that BlackBerry 10 users will have a great Skype experience. To that end, we are working closely with BlackBerry to open up some of the integration points available to native apps in the OS so that they can also be used by the Skype application and we expect the app will allow Skype users to see notifications, to start the app from the Hub, and to see their Skype contacts in the native phone book.”

A couple of those “integration points” are included in the Preview, such as integrating Skype contacts into the native phone book and receiving Notifications in the BlackBerry 10 Hub when there is Skype activity (login, chat messages, file transfer, etc.).

From a technical perspective, one of the “Additional Screenshots” above shows the Call Technical Information accessible as an option during a call. 320 x 240 resolution at 15 fps, using Skype’s SILK audio codec and H.264 video codec demonstrate there is no compromise from Skype for Android.

It’s still a Preview version; it has the occasional hangup because it’s an Android port; hopefully Android related issues will be addressed when BlackBerry 10 updates the Android player to support Jelly Bean, amongst other BlackBerry 10.2 features. Just restart the app if necessary and it works. Occasionally I have similar issues with other Android ports but they work quite well and they provide a path towards encouraging developers to support BlackBerry 10.

Bottom line: As stated during the CrackBerry Live interview, Skype for BlackBerry 10, even in its Preview state, provides the best performance by a Skype mobile application on any mobile platform.

As outlined above, it’s the combination of both the feature set and the underlying robust, multi-tasking BlackBerry 10 OS platform that contribute to this conclusion. For the first time I feel that, when I leave the familiarity and convenience of running Skype on a PC, I can continue to access my Skype conversations when away from the home office with a similar user experience. It was the combination of a recent family trip out of town followed by my experience at BlackBerry World that brought about this realization. And the experience continued while using commuter transportation to and from a local event last night.

Finally, using Skype for BlackBerry 10 has become one more experience that contributes to my BlackBerry 10 theme: “Did I say it was fast?’

Just a reminder: you can get the full story about Skype, its evolution and its various features and end point platforms in Experience Skype to the Max.

Full disclosure: The author attended BlackBerry Live 2013 as a guest of the BlackBerry Elite program. Other than a non-disclosure agreement regarding confidential information, no conditions have been placed on any coverage I may provide of the event. At the time of authoring this post, I had no proprietary information regarding BlackBerry’s future direction but rather simply my own past experience and information provided at BlackBerry Live sessions.

The author has a small holding of BlackBerry shares. But he also has iOS and Android devices in order to experience a cross section of the smartphone and tablet market. These observations are based on publicly available information combined with his own past business experience at senior management levels in high technology markets. His main interest is in seeing several thousand jobs maintained in not only the Canadian economy but also in BlackBerry organizations around the world.

Given that RIM stock has been somewhat volatile for the past few months I can only say check with your investment advisor before taking any action. These posts are for information purposes only.


About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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