Skype for iOS 7 Looks Great — It’s a Shame About the Other Versions

It's flatter and friendlier.

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For my mileage, Skype remains the best inter-platform messaging app you don’t have to pay money for. I default to FaceTime with friends and family using Macs or iOS devices, but in my experience, Skype still tends to be stabler, the experience more consistent over erratic connections, and the feature set broader if you’re looking for dedicated phone numbers or international call options. And there’s the robust multi-platform angle: Mac, PC, iOS, Android, Linux, game consoles, handheld gaming systems — Skype’s pretty much ubiquitous.

On the other hand, the Skype OS X client looks like someone wrestled a spreadsheet and a bunch of blurry profile pics into a drab gray box (the computer client looked better, in my opinion, when it was aiming for simpler a few years ago). Skype’s smartphone and tablet versions, by comparison, have long looked cleaner and felt more functionally intuitive. For example, I never wonder where the dial pad option is when using the iPhone version of Skype, but I sometimes fumble for it using the OS X client, where instead of living somewhere obvious like a discrete tab, it’s a tiny icon next to the search box. Tap it, and you’re kicked over to a standalone dial pad box. I’m nitpicking, but compared to its mobile incarnations, Skype for Mac feels like something inelegantly kludged together.

Those differences are even more stark with an iOS 7-native version that riffs on iOS 7’s slender, upsized fonts and spare visual geometry. If you granted iOS 7 permission to autoupdate, you’ve already got it: load Skype and voila, changes made. Behind the scenes, Microsoft says it’s improved accessibility (better VoiceOver support, for those with visual issues), made the app a little speedier and applied some general behind-the-scenes fixes. I can’t complain, and it zips right along on my 2012 iPhone 5.

So how about it, Microsoft? Spare some of that love for those of us still Skype-ing from laptops and desktops most hours of a day?