The Android version of Microsoft's popular Skype video calling app had one unpopular quirk: It placed a noticeable, sometimes massive, drain on batteries.
The company had welcome news for users in a March 18 blog post. Eric Lin, a product marketing manager at Skype, announced that the newly released Skype 4.7 app for Android solves the problem. "With Skype 4.7 for Android, we are introducing aggressive battery savings that will allow most of our users to leave Skype running without noticeably affecting battery life," he wrote.
The update will likely help millions of users. According to the app's listing at the Google Play store, it has racked up 100 million to 500 million installs. It currently has a 4-star rating (out of 5) based on feedback from more than 2.8 million users.
On Skype's support forums, some members complained that the app was among the most power-hungry. One Samsung Galaxy 2 owner said that with Skype running in the background, the phone would not last past 7 hours. An LG G2 user said it was "likely the worst offender" of the 100-plus apps on the device.
Skype's battery-killing bug recalls a glitch that hit the Windows version of the software (version 6.11). On Jan. 22, Microsoft announced an update (version 6.13) that fixed an issue with the software that caused CPU utilization to spike while running Chrome as the default browser. Besides the negative performance impact, the buggy Skype software could quickly drain a notebook PC's battery.
Lin indicated that there was no quick fix to achieving better battery life with the updated app. "It has been a challenging process, because to do this we've had to transform to the way Skype technology works," he stated. However, squeezing out more time between charges came at the cost of another feature.
"To achieve these amazing battery savings, we've temporarily turned off instant notification of messages in group chats," said Lin. He assured that soon "you will be able to receive group chat messages instantly without additional battery impact." A new "Sync group messages in the background" setting allows users to turn on notifications if they wish.
Lin added that in addition to the energy-saving features, Skype 4.7 for Android also:
- Includes a workaround for the KitKat bug that causes a runaway process when the camera is synced in the background.
- Includes a fix for audio and video calling on tablets that do not have Bluetooth.
- Now lists your Windows Live Messenger contacts in the Skype (default) view, not just the All contacts view.
Microsoft plans to deliver the update for Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets before the end of March. Skype apps are also available for iOS and Windows Phone. Outlook.com users can place Skype video calls in HD directly in their browsers via a plug-in for the PC.