Skype is (still) the best communication app for Windows 10 users, even if people don't use it

Skype on Windows 10
Skype on Windows 10 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Updated February 6, 2020: This post has been updated due to the current health crisis. We've added some links to resources that can help people stay in touch right now and some thoughts on Skype as a service during the crisis.

My phone and PC have entire sections dedicated to messaging apps. I use WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, Slack, and more to stay in touch with people. I occasionally also use Discord, SMS messaging, and even Twitter messaging because people I know are on so many different platforms. But something stuck out to me recently, almost every single person I communicate with on any of these services also has a Skype account. And yet, almost none of us use it to message each other. Apple users have a seamless experience with iMessage and FaceTime. But I've found myself jumping from app to app every day for years on Windows because no one can agree on which service to use.

I'd imagine that many people are in the same boat right now when it comes to jumping between services. With millions of people working from home and locked down, people have scrambled to find a service to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. Many have switched over to Zoom, though that has security concerns right now, while others stuck with services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. During the current health crisis, I was perplexed that no one I know even talked about using Skype. Microsoft says Skype usage is up, but in both raw numbers and anecdotally, people aren't flocking to Skype like they are to some other services.

Every single person that has a Microsoft account technically has a Skype account. And hundreds of millions of people have used Skype at least once or twice to make a video call, so, oddly, most people rarely use Skype. I switched over to Skype for my primary messaging app while on vacation a few months ago to see how it performs as an all-in-one communication app. I was pleasantly surprised. I've been critical of Skype in the past, including some of the app's design features. But the current state of the app is impressive and provides something I can't get with any other messaging services: a complete communication experience available on every platform I use. I think the insights I learned during this vacation apply even more so during the current crisis. I also still believe that Skype could be an excellent tool to stay in touch right now, but that most people don't use it.

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Communicating from everywhere

Skype on iOS

Skype on iOS (Image credit: Windows Central)

The reason I was inspired to switch over to Skype was my hunt to find a single app that allows me to communicate through text, voice, and video from all of my favorite platforms. I didn't want to jump between multiple apps when chatting with the same person. I've used Telegram for a long time and think it's an excellent service, but its lack of video calls made it fall short for my vacation away from my wife and dogs. Skype's gone through quite a few design changes, not all of which were well-received. But the current state of Skype is easy to use and works well for chatting, calling, and video calling.

Skype also delivers one of the best Windows 10 experiences among popular messaging apps. WhatsApp requires syncing through your phone and lacks many essential app features. Facebook Messenger has a Windows 10 app, so that's something, but it's clearly a port and lacks the features and polish of native UWP apps. Telegram has both a first-party Windows app and an excellent third-party app in Unigram (opens in new tab), so it delivers an excellent Windows 10 experience. I usually wouldn't credit a platform for a third-party app, it's not like Google should get credit for myTube, but the makers of Telegram actively promote third-party applications and provide code that helps developers, so I think credit is deserved.

The most important features of a messaging app vary from user to user, but the chart below breaks down the most important features to me as well as each service's availability.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategoryWhatsAppFacebook MessengerTelegramSkype
Text messagingYesYesYesYes
Voice callsYesYesYesYes
Video callsYesYesNoYes
Group callsYesYesNoYes
Screen sharingNoYesNoYes
iOS appYesYesYesYes
Android appYesYesYesYes
Windows 10 appYesYesYes (Windows app + Unigram)Yes
Xbox appNoNoYes (Unigram)Yes
Web-versionYes (through syncing with phone)YesYesYes
Actionable notificationsOnly on iOS and AndroidOnly on iOS and AndroidYes (Unigram for Windows 10)Yes

For the features that I care about the most, Skype is the only service that checks all of the boxes. It's one of only two messaging services here that supports text, voice, video, and group calls while having native apps on all of the major platforms. Facebook Messenger also does well, though I don't think it's Windows 10 app is very good.

How to easily set up a voice call or video meeting on Skype

Skype has handled just about everything I've done in my testing well. I chat with my wife all day, send photos and videos of my vacation, video call or call daily, and share files and my screen to help coordinate things while across the pond from each other. It's been nice to be able to jump between different forms of communication without switching apps and removes a lot of hassle when searching through histories.

Hello? Is anyone there?

Skype Photograph

Skype Photograph (Image credit: Windows Central)

You probably noticed that my testing is primarily with my wife. That's because the biggest weakness of Skype is that almost no one I talk to uses it to chat. On multiple occasions, I've had a job interview on Skype and gotten a job, then immediately switched over to a different platform to talk to the same person. That's a pretty regular occurrence for Skype in my experience. Most people have it and will use it if specifically requested, but it's not the platform of choice. It used to be the default for video calls and still is to some extent, but overall, it's not the de facto communication experience.

So, here I am, asking my mom and dad to swap over to Skype for our family group chat because it works well on all of our devices. My dad has an iPhone, my mom has a Galaxy 10e, we all have Windows 10 PCs, and both households have an Xbox One. That makes Skype an excellent platform for our family, but is it worth me recruiting over my friends, teammates, and colleagues over to Skype? I'm not planning on converting the football team I coach over to Skype, even though I'm willing to bet 90 percent of them technically have a Skype account. Most people have picked their platform of choice and will stick with it.

Overall thoughts

Skype is in a unique situation. It's a service that hundreds of millions of people have an account for that is often overlooked for competitors like WhatsApp and Facebook. As a communication platform, I think Skype provides the best experience for Windows 10 users out of the popular messaging services. It has apps just about everywhere, supports all types of communication, is free and easy to use, and has a good Windows 10 app. But I don't expect it to become the primary messaging app for many people.

It's almost sad to switch over to Skype. I think if Microsoft had marketed Skype differently and fixed its issues a few years ago, it could have been the default web-based communication app over Facebook and WhatsApp. But the fixes and improvements are likely too late, and people shouldn't have to beg or convert their family and friends over to an app to get a good experience.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

71 Comments
  • Personally I really like Skype but agreed it is held back by past assumptions it is a bit rubbish. I find it to be a fully capable application and have not seen any of the apparent drop out issues people regularly claim plague the calls.
    My old flatmates from University are about the only folks I speak to on skype and that is because we always have used it.
  • I feel Skype has tons of potential myself but with all the privacy issues and snooping, me and many of my friends refuse to use it. If it had true end to end encryption and didn't have the history of them listening in to messages and calls we would be all over it.
  • Privacy issues?? Skype? Probably one the the best apps??
  • Was a Skype die-hard until it failed to consistently deliver messages. You know, its core function. Wife would get messages from me hours or even days later.
    Ultimately switched to Line. (noticed it didn't make your little list) Line was the most Skype-like in feature set and app availability IMO. Haven't looked back since.
  • We switched to Line as well. Only issue is we really dislike the desktop apps and its been having some issues with Video sending lately. We are looking at maybe going back to Telegram if the dropped notification thing is fixed.
  • Desktop app is very spartan. But it's been reliable for me. Haven't had a video issue that i'm aware of. What's yours doing? Not saying I can help, but I'd like to be on the look out for similar issues.
  • We have had issues on the mobile app not sending video files, or some the the files being sent having garbled or messed up audio. Most of the time when we have issues its just refusal to send.
  • LINE is one of the best, I've been using it since 2012 with a few friends
  • the message and call dropping issue were still prominent as of a year and a half ago when I used it to keep in touch with my ex.
    Really wanted to give it another shot (for the 6th f****ing time), but it was just ridiculous. Especially considering its what replaced WLM which was almost flawless before they canned it.
  • Skype to send messages? Sure. But I wouldn't say it's the main function for the app. That would be video calls.
  • My wife and I use it, too. The only downside is that the messages don't get sent to my car when driving, like SMS does.
  • That's true. But SMS only works with my Windows phones. It's impossible to get SMS interaction with Android in my car. Heck, it's impossible to get hands-free interaction at ALL with Android.
  • SKype is pretty poor these days, lie it have never been fantastic, but Ms seems to have done something as the video quality and audio quality is not as good as it used to be. I only have an old skype account, but I doubt that has anything to do with it. I use skype very little these days. Most communication I do is via SMS, facebook messenge, emails and normal phonecalls.
    i don't use any of the other messenger services, like Whatsapp. FaceTime, i am amazed at the quality of that, my sister and brother-in-law uses it on their Ipad to contact their son and even with their naff broadband the quality is really good. Skype is nothing like it.
  • Ah yes, but what about non iPeople? That's the issue with FaceTime for a lot of people who want to chat/video call with both their Apple and non-Apple friends. My wife has an iPhone and I have a OnePlus Android. We use Google Duo and have our extended family, which is also an Apple/non-Apple mix. Clean and simple like FaceTime and with an app in the App Store.
  • The article is spot on. Of course, I felt exactly the same way about Windows phones and Windows 8. They hit all the marks that were--ARE--important to me. None of the other platforms do that, including Windows 10. But, you're right. Skype is the most ubiquitous service out there, yet people insist on using Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facetime or whatever. I HATE using more than one service. Oh, and then there's the fact that ALL of my contacts default to using SMS...other services are secondary by a long shot. ALL of them.
  • The only reason people stopped using Skype is because they could never make their damn minds up and started playing jenga with features. At one point they removed presence controls and returned it in a sloppy form under the guise of "granular" controls, it was no where near the granular controls they removed. Not to mention the silly issues that occured when they transitioned away from a P2P model. What I find galling most of all - Windows Live Messenger was way better than skype, it was more ubiquitious as XP had WLM client pre-bundled and it was tied to the one of the most under-appreciated features in Wp8 - rooms. Lastly, if you ever tried to use the Skype for business app on Wp8.. you'd want to throw your phone out the window in frustration as it was such an aggravating experience. Even thinking about makes my skin crawl...
  • I hear you on this. The worst was the dual apps in the Win8/8.1 era. Completely pointless. I find Skype to have reliable video quality, though. We video chat with my mom using Skype. I use Line with the spouse (THE best stickers hands down!) and various other chat clients with various other people, for work and play. It's a little tiny bit completely maddening. But when is the world going to entirely switch to one service or another? Never, really.
  • @Andrew G1, they still have dual Apps - the store app and win32 client.... I've used Line a few times but everyone I know uses whatsapp.
  • Yeah same, I use LINE most of the time along with Facebook Messenger.
    Microsoft Teams is used for my family and my business
  • I was livid when they gave WLM the boot in favor is the oh so painfully inferior Skype..
    To this very day, Skype does not live up to what WLM was. And its been what, 7, 8 years?
  • @eddieDOTexe same here, I used to use ResourceHacker to changed the version numbers of the WLM client so I could keep using WLM haha... eventually Microsoft patched that work around. Messenger Plus was (and is) hands down on the best plugins ever developed for an IM client.
  • Skype is very bulky. On my Android device it is opens 10s, where's telegram and WhatsApp 1-2s.
  • iMessage, Facetime, and Whatsapp for me. Forget about Skype. Microsoft really had a great opportunity to do something great with Windows Live Messenger. Remember that? Everyone was on it.
  • yeah they really dropped the ball..
    It should have been Skype that got nipped rather than WLM. Nobody I knew was happy with the transition. It was sloppily done and Skype very few features in comparison to WLM. It still does lol
  • You have to bounce between three different apps? Thanks. I'll stay with Skype.
  • Good article. I use Skype all the time. It's fine. I dumped WhatsApp because it's owned by Facebook, and as I understand it, it scrapes my contact data, which I understand Skype does not. (And I dropped Facebook a long time ago.) So, I wonder your accessment of Skype's privacy?
  • I use it everyday for S2S business and private calls, which often run for hours. Usually in the office running on a compact PC connected to big screen and audio system and Web cam/mic so I can walk around doing other things while talking. Perfectly capable.
  • yah, its great "hey, add me please, my username is live:o2o23ke23krn2rjfikskjoifj32ir3232"
  • EVERY
    HECKING
    TIME
    LMAO!
  • I only have to give my phone number.
  • nice
    but
    i dont wanna sharing my personnal number
  • That's easy, then don't.
    Your Microsoft Account can have many different aliases. I created a spare one which is an Outlook.com email address I give for people to search up. I never use it anywhere, and if anyone sends an email to it, it goes directly to my junk folder. The alias idea is also great for making an account for spam my site sign ups. 😏✌️
  • So obviously you do not know how to use it.
  • "Skype is the best communication app" And that is it. I hate that people don't use it more.
  • This is a familiar story. You can think the same way about what happened to BlackBerry as a whole or even just BlackBerry Messenger. You are right, Sean, I too have had a Skype account probably longer than a decade, but have only used it on a few occasions since not many use it. The good thing is with those that I do use it with are people I need to connect with and are abroad. They also haven't gone the whatsapp direction either, thankfully for me. ☺
  • I use Skype for messaging everyday. I'm one of those rare people that convinced my friends to use it.
  • Microsoft has indeed been late to invest resources to improve the app and service. I was put off that skype seemed to auto-delete my texts. I later found out that Skype was buggy with refreshing the text lists or syncing them possibly from a server (I presumed...it looked that way). With the latter I also became sceptical as I found it weird for microsoft to pull my texts into a server, not directly from local device storage. I don't think it's good business practice not mention that upfront. Further more the reality is different regions just have become accustomed to use different social messaging services. Microsoft could easily have solved this by making an add-on for whatsapp example, being able to pull in messaging threads to and from whatsapp. They did in the past too with msn messenger.
    With these two issues adressed Skype could have been a class-leading social messaging platform.
  • I mean, I would use Skype more if it actually worked well when I used it. Maybe it's "better" now but anytime I've tried to use it over the past few years for things like messaging with my wife or the kiddo video calling the grandparents, Skype has failed spectacularly.
  • Skype is near useless. I started using it as a Windows Mobile 10 user. I still use it with my wife very frequently, as it is now practically the only supported Messaging app on the platform. I have used it for over 4 years on WM10, Windows 10 desktop and Android. It is near useless. It has some nice features, but they are all as unreliable as they get. You never know of a message sent will actually arrive. I've seen messages getting lost and their order getting mixed up watching the same conversation in different instances of the same chat. Loading external resources are really slow loading up a chat window for ages. It fails to support Windows features and had been failing ever. It is probably the worst software of Microsoft out there. I am nothing but amazed to see how Teams is performing better in all aspects.
  • Ever since Skype stopped working on my Windows Phone I really haven't used skype that much at all. Yes, I'm still going strong with my Nokia 830. I used to use it almost weekly. Now I don't even think about it for personal use. I use it daily for work. I think Skype is a very useful tool, but I never used it for chat on my phone I used Messenging. I even preferred the People hub when it had Rooms. Now Rooms was solidly awesome. that went to the grave yard too (shameful).
  • Those were the good days. Rooms with integrated Messenger. The Messenger platform was king before Microsoft tried to fix what wasn't broken by switching everybody to Skype.
  • The reason no one uses Skype anymore is simple. It is a Microsoft product. Period. People are using their phones (and possibly iPads) all day long. They have learned that anything Microsoft is what they use at work. If they use anything Microsoft at all, it is for 8 hours a day, Monday - Friday. Evenings and weekends, people are happily NOT sitting in front of a Windows 10 PC. Not to mention that during work hours when using the Windows 10 PC, the last thing anyone wants is for personal texts/videos/whatever to be on the company PC, using the company network.
  • That's not how the actual world works.
  • People aren't using skype because the service was terrible for the longest time. Skype got popular by doing something less terrible than other more terrible alternatives. This worked well on Desktop, where you didn't have to worry about power management, and where P2P Chat and File Transfers work well. It didn't work well on power-conscious always-connected devices. The service was terrible on mobile for years. The apps were even worse, and a battery drain. Their protocols were not, at all, efficient for mobile uses. After Microsoft purchased them, the Android, iOS, Windows, etc. apps were all uncoordinated in terms of development. File transfers would not work between the apps running on different platforms at random times, based on their version numbers/update timeline. This made Skype a completely impractical solution. Everyone I knew who used WLM or Y!M (the two used to interop) went to services other than Skype after Microsoft killed off WLM here. Almost all of them just shifted over to Facebook. I won't even get into how much of a waste of time and resources the Metro and UWP Skype apps were - particularly the buggy UWP version. I could hardly use that app without my or the person I was video calling with going black, for whatever reason (not a permissions issue, just a buggy app...).
  • This seem unlikely given how many people use other Microsoft products outside of working hours.
  • Imessage is used on the iphone because users don't know or care how their text (SMS) is delivered. Some people know it's imessage but many people just use it like SMS. It doesn't require an "app" separately loaded. Microsoft had the chance with Windowsphone to make Skype the SMS/Messaging app but never did. I think they tried integration but they rebooted Skype even more often than Windowsphone. At one point I seem to remember it tried to be Snapchat. Microsoft missed the increased use of IM a long time ago. They moved a lot of people from MSN Messenger to Skype without really making the change a compelling one. Then, as mobile became central, both Google and Apple had competitors came with the OS.
  • Ha ha ha... Another thing Microsoft made a complete mess of... I was a huge fan of Microsoft and slavishly purchased device after device but will buy from them no more... Other manufacturer's have caught up and have more compelling products... I'm amazed they are still in business with the amount of miss steps they have made... Only needs an Amazon, Google or Apple to make a suite of software to rival 365 and then they really will be in trouble... I'm surprised they didn't ruin Office and allow another company to come in and steal the market for that too...
  • What about group me? The messaging app made to' compete with WhatsApp but.. . Never did it even it it could at the beginning?
  • Skype is ubiquitous but a pig of a program. Microsoft has moved on to Teams but unfortunately they won't have a personal version until April 21st with Microsoft 365.
    If MS can optimize Teams to load quickly and give a limited, free version away, it has a chance of being the king of messaging, video conferencing and collaboration.
  • No mention of Viber really?
  • People use that?
  • No mention of Viber, really?
  • In an article about Skype? Yea, really. But you can find dozens of articles about messaging/collaboration apps that mention Viber and complet