In the remaining days before Christmas, we’re looking at a new app each day to enrich the festive season through your smartphone. Today we’re looking at Skype for Windows Phone 8.

Christmas is a time for bringing people together, families and friends meeting after weeks, months and maybe even years apart, but sometimes the distance is just too far or it’s just not viable. It doesn’t mean you can’t see each other and thanks to a myriad of apps, our smartphones give us even more ways to communicate than just calls and texts and one of the most obvious examples of this is Skype.

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Although the mobile versions of Skype are already pretty robust on iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones and Android tablets, the newest release is that of Skype for Windows Phone 8 and it promises to deliver a new user experience all its own. It may not be common knowledge, but Microsoft, creators of Windows Phone 8, also own Skype and so the two brands have been able to work together closely on the creation of a native app for Microsoft’s mobile OS.

The UI is beautifully designed, with the top banner morphing and animating when swiping between screens. When you startup the app you’re greeting with any recent conversations you may have had, you can also swipe left or right to view any favourite contacts you may have set, or the people list which displays the full list of online and offline users in your Skype address book.

At any point, the user can tap in the top right to view their own profile or start a call, chat, add a new user or a new number all from the menu at the bottom of the screen. The design team have to be commended for not only making the Skype experience fast and fluid, but beautifully simple to navigate.

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Tapping on a contact from the ‘People’ list or re-entering into a contact from the ‘Recent’ menu places you in a text chat window, with a swipe to the left revealing the user’s profile. The chat interface lets you jump between text entry, placing VoIP calls or video calls quickly, as well as giving you the option to block a contact. Placing a voice or video call adds an additional ‘Call’ tab which is available by swiping to the right from the chat window, although it automatically switched to this screen when a call is placed. It’s also worth noting video calls can be placed using the front-facing or rear cameras on a Windows Phone 8 handset.

It’s impressive how easily the Skype team have been able to condense the service’s experience into the clean, clear design of their Windows Phone 8 mobile application and it’s certainly a welcome addition to the operating system’s app catalogue, now you can use it to call your loved ones on the other side of the world this Christmas and best of all, for free.