I bit the bullet and bought the hype with Skype. eBay’s Skype phone service lets you talk on the telephone over the internet. For free.
For free to other Skype users. Next to nothing for everyone else. What’s the catch? How does Skype compare to iChat AV’s audio connection?
Skype is an internet telephony company, community, service, software, system that acts more or less like the phone company. Without the phone company.
At a more basic level, Skype is a software application that lets you use your Mac (or Windows PC, or Linux PC, or Pocket PC; got a few too many ‘PCs’ in there) to ‘call on the phone’ to pretty much anywhere in the world.
Once you install Skype on your Mac (or PC) you can ‘call’ to any other Skype user for free. It’s a digital telephone service without the telephone company and without a telephone (mostly). Your Mac becomes the phone.
How is Skype different than using iChat AV on your Mac? Not much and quite different at the same time.
iChat AV and Skype are similar in that both use your Mac to connect to other Mac users (or, in the case of iChat AV, other .Mac or AIM users) to carry on audio conversations.
They’re different in that iChat AV can be used for audio conferencing and video conferencing, where Skype is more of a telephone operation and has the ability to connect your Mac and Skype call to telephones throughout the world.
That’s a big difference, though I’d prefer to see a marriage of the two, I know that won’t happen for awhile. The telephone is just too slow.
Skype’s feature component is called SkypeOut which lets you connect to friends and family over the phone company’s telephone lines, long distance, for a very competitive rate. Very. As in one or two or three cents per minute (depending on the country).
Installation of Skype on a Mac could not be much easier. Download. Double click. Click. Click. Set up an account (similar to setting up a .Mac, iChat AV account), and you’re ready to Skype your friends and family.
Their are similarities between the Skype Mac application and iChat AV so you’ll have no trouble using the application. The biggest difference is that there are many more Skype users worldwide than .Mac users or AIM users.
About 50-million at last count. When I first set up my Skype account there were over 4-million Skype users online.
Plus, the main benefit is that Skype lets you call friends or family on their regular telephone line. You can use Skype to call them on their telephone. No Skype needed on the other end.
Many Mac Skype users prefer to use a headset or USB phone instead of the Mac’s microphone or iSight camera.
Remarkably, Skype has headsets and USB phones and even cordless phones (compatible with Skype AND your regular phone line—you get both) that plug right into your Mac.
The phone then rings when calls come in over the phone company’s line, and it rings when a Skype call comes in. Caller ID lets you know which is which.
For Mac users, there’s even a Skype Widget which lets you dial calls over Skype, look up country codes, and check the local calling rates.
Just as Mac OS X Tiger and iChat AV can do audio and video conference calls, Skype does conference calls, audio only, with up to 50 people at the same time.
The whole set up process is just drag and drop. In fact, the Mac version of Skype is an easier setup and operation than the Windows version.
For users who require more advanced services, Skype has the ability to give you a real telephone number and voice mail. Even cooler is that the phone number can be ‘local’ to a city where you don’t live.
For example, you could live in Los Angeles and have a ‘local’ Skype phone number for London. Your London friends or business associates would call the local number and your Skype phone would ring at your home in Los Angeles.
Skype started a few years ago and has grown like weeds since. It’s worldwide and simply uses the high speed of the internet to connect Skype user to Skype user.
The service became so popular that online sales giant eBay bought Skype earlier this year.
In short, if you like iChat AV and see some potential, try Skype because it extends the service and works well. Click Here for the Skype page, free download, and the Widget.
This really should be under ‘low end’ because it’s such a bargain. Why didn’t Alexis get to this one first?
Carol Mary Miller
Jack just set this up and we’re having a conversation with Tera in Los Angeles. It sounds just like iChat AV. With the USB headset it sounds just like the telephone. Only much cheaper.
Jack D. Miller
Where we live the local cable company is pushing ‘digital phone’ service for $39.95, including all the long distance you can eat. Depending on how much you eat, Skype could be a bargain.
I didn’t miss this for the Low End category. It’s important to leave something for Tera to do.