Did Skype just make a boo-boo, only supporting “hi-res” Android devices?

Instant Messaging, or IM, has been something mainly used between computer users; “computer” being a workstation, desktop, or laptop. Sure, there have been IM clients around for some mobile phones and other gadgets, but until recently, many users have opted out on the use-your-cell-to-chat for a number of reasons. One reason is that it’s been considered something “geeks” do. Another reason has been that most mobile phones sold until recently haven’t been so-called smartphones.

Slowly but surely, with the arrival of iPhone 3Gs, iPhone 4, and too many Android-based phones to keep track of, the smartphone market is set to explode (brace for impact). With more smartphones being sold, so is also the number of data subscriptions; in other words a mobile phone carrier plan that allows for a certain amount of data to be transmitted through the mobile data network. Many people choose a flat-fee data plan that allows “unlimited” data.

Two manufactures of Android-based smartphones have also seen a different kind of light; SonyEricsson with their X10 Mini (and X10 Mini Pro) and HTC with their Tattoo and Wildfire products. These phones stand out in the way that they are aimed at users that don’t necessarily want to look like they’re conducting the Vienna Philharmonics, in other words, they’re small 🙂 The SonyEricsson X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro are really small (too small some would say). But they have one thing in common, they are fairly affordable while sporting a lot of the smartphone functionality.

So what does this have to do with Skype? Quite a bit, if you ask me.
With the coming of these “cheap” (as in affordable) smartphones, chances are you’ll start seeing younger people switch to them the next time they consider putting their old Symbian based phone out to pasture. “Hey Grandpa, many ‘young’ people already have smartphones, where have you been?” Well, yes .. but please define “many”. I’m talking about hundreds of millions of new smartphone users, just around the corner.

Back to Skype (sorry for the detour); one thing that Skype has over many of its “competitors” (or alternatives) is that Skype combines text chatting with free or inexpensive voice calls and video calls (I didn’t say Skype was alone with combining these, but let’s face it, Skype does it better than many others). One downside of Skype in the early days was its lack of support for operating systems other than Windows. This is no longer the case, and you can use Skype on anything from Symbian mobile phones to Desktop Linux.

Unless, that is, you’re the proud owner of a brand spanking new smartphone with “sub-standard screen resolution”. This has been defined by the Skype developers as anything less than “320×480, 800×480 or 850×480”. This immediately disqualifies all “mini-smartphones”, like the HTC Wildfire, SonyEricsson X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro, and a number of up-and-coming releases from other manufacturers.

So I need to ask Skype this: if I use Skype mainly for chatting and making free or inexpensive voice calls, what the hell does my screen resolution have to do with running Skype? I can view video on YouTube, I can use my phone as a remote control, I can use it as a SIP-client (IP-telephony), I can do basic word processing on it, read and write e-mail, play games, and a thousand other things. But according to the geniuses at Skype, I can’t chat using Skype.

Less than 12 months ago, I was happily chatting away using Skype on my SonyEricsson C905 Symbian-based phone, it has a 2.4 inch screen with the resolution 240×320. Now with Skype’s new and improved Android client and my new shiny HTC Wildfire smartphone, sporting the same resolutions on a 3.2 inches screen, Skype has apparently become too good for me.

I’m obviously missing something. There’s something that I’m too stupid to understand. There has to be. It cannot simply be that the developers at Skype sat down and said “Naah, we can’t support a 240×320 screen on Android devices because we don’t know how to.”

Using Skype as a replacement for SMS and MMS (for which mobile carriers charge ridiculous amounts of money) could have been an option. It could have been the great equalizer for smartphones because it worked on “all smartphones since 2010”.

I guess I’ll need to use one of the other IM clients with support for voice calls.

I guess the tinyUrl version of this post should be “Skype did a piss-poor marketing decision this time around.” 🙂

Some other interesting links regarding Skype and mobility:
Skype’s Android shackles are broken, 3G calling hacked into reality
Fring’s mis-use of Skype software was damaging to our brand and reputation
Yahoo messenger coming to iPhone and Android with cross-platform 3G video calls

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