As well as being able to FaceSwap and make videocalls over Wi-Fi with FaceTime on the iPad 2, you can also make video calls with the Skype app for iOS. We’ve been wanting to check Skype videocalls out ever since we learned that the iPad 2 came with cameras.
The main advantage Skype for iOS has over FaceTime is that you can make video calls over 3G as well. So you’re not limited to being connected to a hotspot or to your home/office’s Wi-Fi. Chances are, if you use Skype to make video calls already, then you’ll be pleased to know that it works fine on the iPad 2.
Video call quality
Unsurprisingly though, video call quality through the Skype app is best when connected to Wi-Fi.
Though it worked for us via 3G most of the time, occasionally we suffered screen freezes, sound drop outs and instances where video and audio were out of sync. In most cases these hiccups only lasted a few seconds, but that’s enough for a conversation to become unintelligible and annoying.
We tried video calls on 3G to Wi-Fi as well as 3G to 3G and found little difference between the two, bar the annoyances described above.
Seeing as the iPad 2 is a device that you’ll want to mainly use in the home (where presumably you’ll have your wireless router set up) we’d recommend to go for the Wi-Fi option every time. Not only will the call quality be more consistent, you also won’t have to worry about eating into your monthly data plan.
How does it compare to FaceTime on the iPad 2?
If you ask us, there’s really not much in it. On the iPad 2, both Skype and FaceTime allow you to do the same thing – make video calls. Of course with Skype you get the option of just voice calls as well, but that’s besides the point here as FaceTime doesn’t.
We found that in cases where we were calling a device with a higher quality camera than our iPad 2 (which has a sub 1-megapixel camera) that in incoming calls looked a little clearer on the iPad 2. Of course, this will vary on who you’re calling and what laptop or webcam they’re using.
iPad 2 to iPad 2, videocalls on FaceTime and Skype are pretty indistinguishable.
Skype also has much more potential reach for videocalling than FaceTime does. We were able to Skype video call several friends on their Windows laptops and PCs for instance, whereas FaceTime is currently an Apple-only product.
We’ve tested out Skype video calls other iPad 2s, an iPhone 4, a MacBook Pro and a Windows laptop and in all cases it worked fine.
Pretty much every high end Android phone and tablet that’s been announced so far this year features a twin camera set up. So it’s only a matter of time before the Skype for Android app gets video calls enabled as well.
A minor point to make is that the Skype app for iOS isn’t a dedicated iPad app. When you first load it up on your iPad, you get a tiny letterbox that’s been formatted for the iPhone’s smaller screen. You can of course fullscreen it, but when enlarged the menus look all pixellated and blocky.
This doesn’t actually affect the quality of videocalls at all. But compared to the slick, smooth layout of FaceTime, Skype looks a bit haggard on the iPad.
Another little thing we noticed is that little postage stamp window of your face that appears bottom left can’t be moved around on Skype like it can on FaceTime. Again, a minor cosmetic point that doesn’t effect the actual video calling itself but a nice feature to have all the same.
Ultimately, the quality of the video calls you’ll make on the iPad 2 over Skype or FaceTime are more or less the same.
In short, we’d choose FaceTime over Skype if we knew we were going to be talking to someone who we knew had an iPhone 4, iPad 2 or a compatible Mac. Most of the time though, we’d stick with Skype.