There’s just one problem with FaceTime. It only works on Macs, iPhones, and iPads. No FaceTime for Windows devices, Chrome notebooks, or Android smartphones and tablets. Remarkably, not all our family and friends have Apple products so we need something else to keep in touch with them.
Enter Skype, Laughing
For the few family members without Macs or iPhones or iPads we’ve taken to setting them up with Skype. Think of Skype as what would happen to FaceTime if it was designed and managed by Microsoft.
With FaceTime all you need to do is open the app, find the face you want to talk to, and click it or tap it. FaceTime does all the connecting in the background. Audio and video quality usually is very good.
Skype, which, by the way, is now owned by Microsoft is much like Windows and Office these days, and packed with so many arcane features that it’s almost unusable.
Walking a family member through Skype’s setup and configuration is an exercise that Apple’s customers don’t go through often. It’s not that the features are not worthy or useful. It’s more of a Windows-like experience than an Apple experience.
Here’s what Skype for Mac looks like these days.
Compare that screen layout to FaceTime’s elegant simplicity. Skype, like FaceTime, is mostly free, but it comes with plenty of options not found in FaceTime. Audio, video, and chat calls Skype-to-Skype are free, of course, but Skype offers cell phone and standard telephone calling options, both SMS and instant messaging, a voice mail option, and even call forwarding.
What you’ll need to use Skype is about the same as what you’d need for a Mac. A built-in iSight camera works fine, so does an external microphone (or, use the internal mic), but a Skype approved headset with microphone is better.
The advantage Skype has over FaceTime and other video, audio, and chat solutions is ubiquity. Skype runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs, plus Android, BlackBerry, Amazon Fire smartphones and tablets. That makes calling options pretty much available anywhere and everywhere in the world there’s an internet connection and a compatible device.
The only real problem Skype has is the complexity of the user interface which probably inhibits usage, especially among those who are less computer, smartphone, or tablet savvy (hence the need to walk through the setup with our non-Apple using and disadvantaged friends and family).
If Microsoft made FaceTime it would look and work like, well, Skype. Whatever Apple is doing to FaceTime’s audio and video quality sets it apart from Skype, too. Almost everyone in our circle of family and friends gets a better image and voice using FaceTime than Skype. YMMV, but both are free.