Microsoft Skype Lite: How to get started and possibly make video calls on 2G

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the launch of Skype Lite while speaking at Future Decoded event in Mumbai. Skype Lite is focused on using low bandwidth to connect people with each other. The app is ideal for people who are on a limited data connection or are on the move and want the call to function even on a 2G connection. It features messaging, video and audio calling and bots.

Users who want to use Skype Lite can use it by downloading the app from Google Play Store for their Android-based smartphones. It is a 13MB installation. We installed the app and after initial tests, the app does seem to be leaner and faster.

Skype Lite can replace the default dialler and SMS apps as it includes SMS and Skype conversations in one single tab. Other tabs include call logs with dialler, contacts and bots. Users can filter out conversations based on Skype, SMS or promotional SMSes.

The floating action button (FAB) gives users the option to compose a new SMS, or make a new call, add a new contact or search for a new bot. The bots section has four suggested bots, one of which was ‘Your Face’ that was used in the bots showcase event. One of the four bots is AP Transport Authority that helps you navigate through all government procedures that include getting a Driving License or Registration services in Andhra Pradesh. The bot gives information about the documents that you will require in addition to the total cost of the service.

The bots which work on the native Skype platform will also work with Skype Lite.

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To get started, you need to download the app from the Google Play Store. After downloading the app you need to sign in using the Microsoft account or Skype ID. The app asks for permission for storage, phone calls and SMS messages. Once you grant the permissions, it takes a while for the app to populate the messages, contacts and bots. One thing we noted is that if you don’t remember your password, the password reset process throws you back to the main ‘Sign in’ page as soon as you open the notification drawer to check the SMS, email or call to get the verification code to reset the password.

The video calling quality of was okay but don’t expect stellar quality as we experienced some frame drops while calling with patchy quality. During our tests on cellular network, Skype used about 3.5MB data for one minute of video calls. This number can vary if you have a good connection, so beware. At the moment there is no provision to put in a data limit, after which you would be notified about your usage of data when you are on a video call. This is one feature that could be added in future updates.

The settings page gives you the option to make Skype Lite as your primary SMS app along with options to reduce data usage and compressing images before sending them and auto downloading media on Wi-Fi.

Other options include notification options in addition to switching to a dark theme or switch accounts. The way to start a new video call, audio call, phone call or compose a new SMS is straightforward with no curveballs involved.

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One interesting thing to note is that you can’t change your display image, status or any other account settings using Skype Lite. Tapping on the account settings menu opens up a web browser where you need to login on Skype website and change settings.

Conclusion

Microsoft Skype Lite is a light and good app which will be useful for budget devices. One important thing to note is that this move comes a tad too late in my opinion and people are already comfortable in the apps of their own choice. Popular apps like WhatsApp, Hike and others have added video calling in their apps on immense demand. The demand was partly because of the lack of optimisation on Skype and later Microsoft’s part.

Despite all that, if Microsoft wants to push this app, they need to improve the app in terms of the existing bugs as mentioned above and stability. They need to provide a much more fluid experience as they will be competing Facebook-owned WhatsApp, Hike, Facebook Messenger and Viber in the video calling space.