Microsoft Takes on Snapchat with Revamped Skype Mobile Apps

For Skype's latest redesign, Microsoft is following in the footsteps of Snapchat, WhatsApp and other popular social messaging apps.

Microsoft Skype

Microsoft's venerable Skype instant messaging and conferencing apps are getting a youth-oriented makeover.

The company is rolling out a major overhaul of its Skype mobile app, first to Android followed soon by an iOS version for iPhones and iPads. The desktop Skype clients for Windows and macOS will follow suit in the coming months, according to Microsoft.

Sporting a new interface that echoes the look and feel of popular social apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp, the updated Skype apps emphasize users' personal connections. The new group chat experience, for example, now enables users to more seamlessly drop images, GIFs, reaction icons and other personal flourishes into their conversations. Users can also customize the Skype's color scheme for added doses of individuality.

Moving beyond simple web search, the app's new Find feature allows users to incorporate information from add-ins and bots into Skype chat. In a YouTube video showing off some of the major changes to the app, a user is seen finding an event near her using the StubHub bot and sharing the details, along with how to buy tickets, with friends directly in the chat interface.

Since first demonstrating Skype Bots during the company's Build 2016 developer conference, Microsoft has been billing the technology as a way for brands to engage with customers in an interactive and fairly frictionless manner. Soon, businesses will be able to insert bots into Skype video calls, enabling media-rich interactions with users.

Skype users will also be able to trade Highlights, including images or videos in a Snapchat-like way to gather reactions and spark conversations. Skype Highlights self-destruct after seven days.

Naturally, the updated Skype apps will continue to support voice and video calling. But owners of older devices may soon find themselves cut off.

Microsoft has been notifying Skype users that next month, the service will stop functioning on a number of platforms. "We've noticed that you are, or previously were, using Skype on Windows Phone 8, Windows Phone 8.1, Messaging app for Windows 10 Mobile, Windows RT or a TV," states an email form Microsoft that is making the rounds this week.

"We're sorry to inform you that we will be permanently retiring these versions of Skype. As a result, after Ju‍ly 1, 20‍17, you will no longer be able to sign in to these versions of Skype," added the company before urging recipients to update to the latest version of the software on supported devices.

Microsoft also recently released its new Face Swap app for Android. The iOS version is coming soon, according to the company.

Part of a portfolio of apps from Microsoft Garage, the software marker's experimental software unit, Face Swap uses facial recognition and Bing image search technologies to virtually transplant users faces onto new bodies. The app goes further than stitching faces into new scenes, it can match skin tone, lighting conditions and head positions for convincing results.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...