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October 17, 2014

Microsoft Boosts Skype for Better Use With iPhone 6

With the arrival of the iPhone 6 now concluded, and the device—along with its counterpart the iPhone 6 Plus—we're starting to see what kind of impact this new device is having with users as well as the impact being seen on the wider market. One such unusual impact is with Microsoft, which has recently augmented its Skype 5.6 app for iPhone users, and in turn brought some changes with it.

Most notably, the new Skype 5.6 offers a retooled interface, specifically optimized and appropriately scaled for the larger iPhone breed. With the new version, users will be sure to see as much as possible regardless of what breed of iPhone is used, so even those users with smaller iPhones like the 4 or 5 line won't be left out in the Skype-based cold. Essentially, more chats will be displayed in chat mode this way, and so too will more messages be displayed in conversation mode.

But it's not just about the screen sizing and interface optimization; the new Skype 5.6 also boasts some new features overall to make it more effective as well. One new move brings presence indicators to the “recent” list, which will help show if a user is online or not more rapidly. Contact profiles now contain contacts and time zones alike, and individual conversations can be marked as read or unread depending on whether or not a user has perused the offerings in question. Finally, engaging the “do not disturb” mode disables notification sounds automatically.

This reportedly represents the second update that Microsoft has made to Skype since the release of iOS 8 from Apple last month. Skype 5.5, meanwhile, brought with it a set of new tools geared toward the extensions in iOS 8, with a particular focus on interactive notifications. With those in place, users are able to not only answer calls but also respond to text messages directly from an iPhone's lock screen and notification center.

Skype has been somewhat under fire of late, facing down a variety of new chat apps as well as the ongoing growth of Web-based real time communications (WebRTC) which promises to all but wipe out Skype by putting most of Skype's essential functions into a Web browser or similar app. That level of accessibility isn't easy to compete against by any stretch of the imagination, so seeing Microsoft step up Skype's operations is a welcome maneuver. This is particularly true for those who have grown attached to Skype and aren't interested in throwing it over for a Web-based tool like the kind made possible by WebRTC.

Naturally, only time will tell if this works out for the best for Skype, and by extension Microsoft. But providing new tools and uses to the iPhone crowd — which itself has been somewhat resistant to the idea of WebRTC use — is likely to prove a smart idea, and give Skype a whole new life by letting it better work with Apple devices, at least for now.


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