Skype is bringing group video chat capabilities to its free consumer mobile apps for Android, iOS and Windows 10 Mobile for the first time, giving consumers the chance to have video chats with a group of friends at one time.
The new group video chat feature was unveiled by Gurdeep Pall, a Microsoft vice president in the Skype unit, in a Jan. 12 post on the Skype Big Blog. The feature, which has been available for some time for paying business customers, is being announced now to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Skype's arrival online.
"To celebrate 10 years of video calling, get ready to welcome group video calling on Android, iPhone, iPad and Windows 10 Mobile—everywhere, completely free," wrote Pall. "We'll be rolling out this new feature to our hundreds of millions of mobile users in the coming weeks, but if you want to preview before everyone else, hit the link below, provide us with some details and we'll do the rest."
Skype users who want to try the preview before its official rollout can do so by preregistering with Skype.
Users of free Skype services today have been able to have audio group chats with up to 25 people, but that did not include video. Paid Skype for business customers are able to have group video chats with up to 250 people at once.
Pall's post did not indicate how many users will be able to share the upcoming group video chat capabilities at one time.
Skype unveiled its mobile chat apps six years ago, wrote Pall, giving users the ability to hold video chats with a friend or colleague even when they were on their mobile devices.
In the first 10 years of Skype services, the company has provided almost 2 trillion minutes of free Skype video calls, Pall wrote. More than 750 million people have downloaded Skype on their Windows Phone, Android and iOS devices since the apps were created.
The Android and iOS Skype mobile apps received notable redesigns last September, which were aimed at making them easier to use and more intuitive for mobile users who want to contact friends, family members and business associates on the go, according to an earlier eWEEK story.
The Skype 6.0 for Android app received a redesign inspired by material design practices, making its user interface simpler and more elegant. It also received a floating action button that simplified how a user can start a new conversation with another user, whether through a video call, audio call, chat or video message, while the app's enhanced search capabilities help users find their most important contacts and conversations much faster. Also getting improvements were the Android app's messaging capabilities, which now let users get an easier view of how many unread messages they have waiting for them. The updated app makes it easier to distinguish between messages that have been read and those that have not been read.
The Skype 6.0 for iPhone and iPad app redesign brought improved navigation that helps users get to their conversations faster, including swipe gestures for making calls and for message management. Also simplified and improved are procedures for sharing photos, Web links, emoticons and the user's location while on a voice or video call.
In addition, the iOS version incorporates enhanced and improved search using the new "recents" tab to search messages and find contacts and groups.
For iPad users, the latest version of the app brings the newest capabilities of Skype on iPhones to the popular tablet platform. Messaging on iPads has been improved, allowing users to share their location, send large emoticons, see Web link previews, and easily send and receive photos, according to the post. Skype for iPad also now lets users stay in touch with their groups by starting a group chat or a group voice call straight from an iPad.