For those lucky enough to have a BlackBerry Q10 or a ‘Dev Alpha C’ device, a preview version of the highly anticipated app, Skype is available now in BlackBerry World. While not yet available on the Z10, a “Coming Soon” notice appears in BlackBerry World, which is the best sign yet that a release is imminent.
Skype for BlackBerry is an Android port, which BlackBerry have been in close collaboration with the designers of Skype in order to give BlackBerry 10 users the best experience that an Android port can deliver. Although the Skype preview is only available on the Q10 at this time, the .BAR file can be sideloaded onto the Z10, which is what I’ve done.
Of course, as this is only a preview of Skype, the general release may be a bit different from what’s here now.
The app has the feel of an Android port, in not feeling entirely smooth to scroll through. The biggest weakness is that it does not integrate into the BlackBerry Hub, although there has been a lot of talk that this would be the case, so we’ll have to wait and see on that point.
When Skype is open, the screen will not turn itself off, which could result in a hit to your battery if you don’t “minimise” the app. I don’t see an option to set a screen time out within the app.
Messaging is pretty smooth, and other than it not integrating with the Hub it seems pretty nice. The traditional Skype messaging sound is played when you receive a message, and the app is ‘Sparked’ to indicate that a message has been received. If you’re a heavy user of Skype, you may want to move the icon onto the first page of apps so that you can get to it quickly or so you’re more likely to notice a message. Integrating into the Hub would sort this out.
I tested out voice and video calling to another Skype user who was on a PC. For the test, my Z10 was connected to WiFi with a pretty good ADSL connection. I could hear the other party pretty clearly, on par with what you’d expect with Skype, although the other side informed me that the voice quality was a little less than they would usually expect. Video chat was a bit pixelated, and not quite up to scratch.
When calling another Skype user, it defaults to speakerphone, with the option to switch to “earpiece” only being available after the call has connected. The dialing sound is also made as if through speakerphone.
The full range of contact options are available through the app, as showed here (with ‘Remove contact’ and ‘Add to favorites’ not pictured).
The most noticeable sign that this app is designed for the Q10 is that when you click into the text input box to type a message, the keyboard comes up as expected, but does not disappear as expected when you click outside of the on-screen keyboard into the body of the conversation. Instead, you have to use the gesture of swiping down on the keyboard with two fingers.
All up, I’m happy that a pre-release preview version of Skype has finally been made available on BlackBerry 10, even if only the Q10 (which can be sideloaded onto the Z10). I’m looking forward to the proper release, which will hopefully address some of these early issues.
What BlackBerry users really want is a native BlackBerry 10 Skype app. For Skype and their new owners of Microsoft to be nice to us, the initial Android port must be a success with record download numbers. I don’t suspect that’ll be a problem. From there, it’ll have to make commercial and political sense for Microsoft, which spent USD $8.5 Billion purchasing Skype, and has to consider their own Windows Phone product, which is closely competing against BlackBerry 10.
See this release as a preview, and a stop-gap measure to get Skype to BlackBerry 10 users as soon as possible, with the finished product to arrive later on.
Skype (preview) is available now in BlackBerry World for Q10 users. Z10 users can find out how to obtain the .BAR from CrackBerry.