Skype reveals new features in Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 apps

Microsoft’s Skype is an important communication tool used by millions around the world to remain in touch with one another. The service is available cross-platform, but Microsoft is looking to update both its Windows and Windows Phone apps, just in time for the two platform updates.

Windows Phone 8.1

If you were watching through the live stream from Build 2014 yesterday you would've seen Windows Phone head, Joe Belfiore demonstrating Windows Phone 8.1 and including Skype into the mix. A new feature in the update is to ‘upgrade’ a standard phone call to a Skype call. It’s a massive improvement, in case you wish to quickly switch to video chat with minimal downtime.

The next improvement for Skype coming to Windows Phone come in the form of Cortana – your new personal assistant. Skype “will work closely with Cortana”, enabling you to easily start calls with contacts. Simply say “Skype, call Nicolas Cage.” We doubt the celebrity would answer, however.

It’s all part of Microsoft’s plan to make Windows, as a whole, more social.

Windows 8.1

As well as Windows Phone 8.1, Windows 8.1 Update 1 also received some love at Build yesterday and Skype for the desktop (and tablets) will receive improvements too. With mouse and keyboard users finally being taken seriously, you’ll now be able to pin the Skype app to the taskbar and use it as if it were a standard application.

It can be viewed as a minor change, but this will open up new levels of productivity for those used to the familiar Windows experience when using a mouse and keyboard. The new Windows 8 version will ship alongside Update 1.

Do the above improvements sound good to you guys?

Source: Skype (opens in new tab)

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • Looks like its gonna be faster!
  • Please, stop.
  • Good one...
  • I'm still waiting for voicemail support. It's somewhat frustrating paying for the Skype In number and voicemail and not being able to pick the messages up using any other client than the Win32 app. :(
  • Yes, and if you have a skype number it needs to be able to receive sms. I can't think of any feature more singularly useless than sending texts without being able to get a reply.
  • The only option I've been able to find is to DELETE/REMOVE/UNINSTALL the worthless Skype app and INSTALL the Skype desktop app. I don't know who the genius was at MS that decided to leave voicemail support out of the Skype app, but s/he should be FIRED! Way to make a good app worthless.
  • Seems faster is such a neat comment!
  • Developer preview date for app studio users please?
  • some time in the month of april. reading articles helps.
  • 10th of April according to a recent WP Central article
  • 14th of April according to another...
  • Nicholas Cage! Edit:
    Gee, I wish that they would add screen sharing in the metro app :/ Sent from my Nokia Lumia 900 with Windows Phone 7.8
  • Yes please.
  • Second that. I could finally uninstall the desktop version.
  • Skype, call Cortana :P
  • Skype:-"cortana is not avaliable outside us for atleast a year u wanna search for clippy?"
  • No. No one has wanted to search for Clippy. Ever. That's why he had to go away.
  • Lmao
  • "Calling Localhost... No response..."
  • "Skype, call Cortona and have Cortona call Master Chief for me, please."
  • I dont get this, what happens if the user that called doesn't have Skype installed on the phone (has it only on pc) or if he is using iphone..
  • Looks to be the first problem with this "improvement" indeed
  • It's the same "problem" your iPhone friends have when they want to Facetime with you. At least everyone can get/use Skype.
  • In case the user is sitting in front of the PC and is willing to go ahead and Skype, then cool. :) Iphones also have Skype, if I'm not mistaken. As I get it, your phone will not care what device the other side has available, as long as the other side has Skype installed and is online and willing to switch to video. 
  • Which is why you will be able to start a regular call, as them if they have skype on their phone/are near a PC, press the skype button and the phone conversation keeps going until a skype connection is established. Although if you know someone has skype on their phone then you might as well skype them right away (although I'm not sure whether the iPhone version can 'push' an incoming call when closed.)
  • Yes, it can push incoming call when closed, and works much better than on WP... :(
  • Trust me. Everything you can do on WP you can do, and better, on iOS. Frustrating fact of life.
  • Sadly, true. Hopefully this will be changing soon.
  • I tried quickly swiping from the left through open apps on my IPad like I can on my Surface RT and Surface 2 and it didn't work. I don't see that as "better" I tried to miracast a video I was watching on my IPad to my WD TVLive like I can with my Surface and it didn't work. I don't see that as better. I needed to split my screen between a Surface app and my Last Pass account to check a password. I couldn't figure out how to do that on my iPad. Wasn't better on my iPad. I plugged in my thumb drive into my Surface to get to some music. Couldn't find a USB to accomplish that on my IPad. I also have books on a sim card that can import into my book reader to read on my Surface. Couldn't do that on my IPad either. Yet you say you can do better on IOS with EVERYTHING. Must be talking about some future IOS device we haven't seen yet.
  • Great comment ! +surface ! :)
    Apple just has a loyal fan following who keep on saying everywhere how good ios is, that's why everyone believes it is as good as it is supposed to be. We need people to promote MS ! (and people like us)
  • I'm not defending iOS.  I am expressing frustration that MS releases better software on their competitors' platforms.
  • Very true !
    The reason is that WP isn't the brainchild of the people controlling Microsoft. Unless some makes Satya give directions to all teams to follow a "windows first" policy, or else if someone makes Joe belfiore the CEO of MS, it would stay the same. The fault is that the skype/bing etc teams work independently of the WP team to much extent and are not that attached to the platform. They need a "windows first" policy !
  • He did say WP, not RT, but I agree that "better" is subjective
  • This guy gets it^^^
  • I was talking about the Skype app, in particular.  Not iOS vs. WP in general. That said, nothing else you wrote makes any sense even if I was making that point.  Does your Surface run WP?
  • I'd have to disagree. My wife and I won an iPad Air last year and i was expecting to be blown away and I am not. I'll take Android (vanilla) over iOS any day. There's so much more functionality and it's pretty. I've tried all 3 OS's and as much as i like android, I'm hoping that WP 8.1 will allow me to finally leave Google.
  • Except upgrade a phone call to a Skype call ;-)
  • iOS Skype apps can push calls already. I just want MS to make Skype the facetime and imessage replacement that works on all platforms - WP, iOS, Android, PC.
  • Out of interest, what do they have left to do for this to be the case? It's already there, and preloaded on Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox. What else is needed for it to feel like an iMessage/Facetime equivalent, except perhaps a few stability fixes? (I ask as someone who doesn't use either of the iOS products so I'm genuinely interested)
  • Maybe you will have to add/ link the person's skype account with the contact, like we can do with the fb account and the email address
  • I've already linked all my skype accounts to my contacts in 8.0..
  • How dare you bring up a gaping hole in this feature -.-
  • It'll probably be grayed out, who knows man.
  • Would make sense. Microsoft Lync advised you if the user at the other end isn't on a device that supports IM, etc.
  • And obviously, it would only be shown for the contacts which are shared in your people hub and Skype. Or maybe they'd merge the contacts and in the people hub, you can simply connect a person's account to a Skype account too.
  • Doesn't the same happen for Facetime users if other party isn't on an iPhone? The party would decline the upgrade option in the first place.
  • You could have the same problem on an iPhone using Facetime. You can try to Facetime someone that doesn't have an i-something, and if they don't, it won't work of course. I believe Facetime is setup by default on an iPhone, but can be disabled. The difference with Skype is that you need to sign-up for the service. But the obvious advantage of Skype is it is cross-platform.
  • If they have a Microsoft account then they have a Skype account. The advantage of Skype is that a huge percentage of people already have a Microsoft account (eg, from Hotmail days) or a Skype account and therefore can already access Skype; the same cannot be said for Apple accounts and iPhones.
  • You'll need the contact to face Skype ofcourse. I pressume it'll just say that the person doesn't have a Skype id or something. About the the iPhone users, well duh! You cant facetime them. Its not a Microsoft problems. They cant facetime you either!
  • Small improvements... We're waiting for a better Skype expérience for WP8, not just something that upgrades to video calls when we already can do a classic video call...
  • A good start.. We want more integration Lol Nicholas Cage. Btw the Lumia 920 still looks great. I have the axact the same :)
  • They still have to optimize this app badly. doing a video call basically eats your battery alive.
  • or they can optimize the battery ;)
  • so true, 15 minutes of skype video called killed my phone by almost 50 percent. that sucks
  • and if you own a 1020 with its metalic camera bump, it gets so hot that it makes you worry the plastic will start to melt...
  • Still lacking file transfer but this "Navigation through the app using the beautiful modern user interface" is a listed feature on their website. So it will still be a poor cousin compared to other platforms. basically. Nice one, Skype.
  • Any idea if access to files has been added to WP8.1?
  • I hope the coming update will be much faster than the current version
  • Oooh, sneaky.
  • What is the change log of wp 8.1 finally ?
  • Still no SMS Integration?
  • I need that feature too
  • When are we ever going to be able to send Photo's?   Come on Skype! Give us the attachment feature already.
  • with iOS it is already since month possible xD
  • So much this. Can't believe this isn't a standard feature for them to add =/
  • Hmm, yeah... if you could just go ahead microsoft and release those updates as soon as possible, that would be great....
  • Bu..bu...but, I haven't received my paycheck. I could set this site on fire.
  • Um yeah, Satya, I'm going to have to ask you to come in on Sunday and hit the release button on the updates... See you then...
  • File transfer.....?
  • Y'know, I don't want Skype to seem faster, I want it to BE faster! As in, loading wise. Skype mobile can be great, instead of just middling to good.
  • Start using LINE. ;-)
    Seriously, that app is light years ahead in features as well as in how it operates (all little things thought out and implemented carefully). Huge thumbs up.
  • I agree, although this is a welcome feature, I'd really appreciate making this application fully functional.
  • I wish there were image sharing, like any other good messaging app.
  • Absolutely, these sound good :)
  • Looks nice, i Just want to test cortana!
  • No...still waiting for voicemail.  
  • Well, I would be much more satisfied if they can handle stopping of ringing on devices on which you did not pick up the Skype call. Right now it is pain in the ass if someone calls me. It starts ringing on my Windows Phone, Windows tablet, Windows PC, iPad and iPod simultaneously. But when I pick up call on one of those devices the other ones keep ringing...
  • My calls have actually stopped ringing on other devices when I pick one up. Few the last 2 months or so.
  • How long does it take? Maybe I am not patient enough... :)
  • Seems my phone and desktop stop ringing a ring or two after I pick up. Pretty quick...maybe I'm just lucky :)
  • (if I pick up on my surface)
  • Although its nice to get "some" improvements, I am floored they haven't addressed gaping holes in the WP8 client. From what I can see, the Android version is so much better. How bout some WP love, its your freakin OS, MS!
  • I think the problem is that WP simply doesn't have the capabilities that Android has on the API front. That is, things that are easy to program on Android are difficult or often even impossible on WP. So, the Android client is better because Android is better.
  • That may be true, but just adds to the frustration. 18 months of dev on the OS should have produced more than what we are seeing.
  • I think you have Android envy. It is NOT a limitation of the OS, so please stop perpetuating that Myth. I can send attachments via WhatsApp, Viber, etc. Do they have some secret API workaround?
  • APIs like what? I fail to see any significant APIs that Android has and WP doesn't. Besides, C#, .NET and XAML are much easier to work with than Java.
  • You obviously didn't watch the keynote, Joe said he's using the newly revamped Skype app for WP 8.1... which is not finished yet.  Looked cleaner to me, and probably has a lot more functionality that just wasn't announced yet since he didnt want to show it all yet.
  • Still no Skype integration in People hub? Mehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh :/ And before all, fix the contacts in Skype. They are all seperate and not linked.
  • The new Windows 8 version will ship alongside Update 1.
  • As opposed to the Windows Phone 8 version, needless to say.
  • K cool feature
  • Anyone else catch the small prints on the first video... "Demo simulated. Cortana coming to Windows 8.1 in the coming months" maybe they meant Windows Phone 8.1 but hey I wouldn't mind Cortana on my laptop and tablet :D
  • Sooner or later it will arrive to all Windows devices. That is my guess. Why not to have it on Xbox or PC, if you want to have unified OS enviroment...
  • It will come to those platforms eventually. WP is the testing ground for it, then they'll start rolling it out to more (MS) platforms.
  • 1) probably server-side, but please make my voicemail actually pick up & record? 2) seriously, you mean I can't SMS via Skype on my WP8? 3) ok, assuming voicemail would actually accept one, I can't listen to it on my phone? 4) Skype seems to eat my battery alive when doing pretty much anything. Optimize even a little, please?
  • Any info on Developer preview date for app studio?  
  • I don't really care about these features. How about being able to see more than 3 lines of a conversation on the screen, animated emoticons and picture sending?? Terrible.
  • +925 I just dont get it, why Viber can be much better than Skype... or viceversa, why Skype is not the best IM solution for WP and Windows.
  • Viber is better but LINE is just awesome. I started using it recently and was blown away. It's a showcase of very well done app. Sadly, not that many people on my contact list have it yet.
  • And how about seeing others Skype profiles, edit my profile, and faster than molasses? Very disappointed with this 8.1 "update"
  • And a HUGE plug for making my live contacts == my Skype contacts. Having to enter phone number etc twice is so 90s (80s?)
  • This! It is terrible in Skype. It should just use the People hub.
  • If viber had "viber in" I would be soooo there. MS, you bought the wrong company!
  • Viber on the phone can't send video messages with in the application.. Also I sent a 13 second video on viber and it was to big to send. As far as the app version on Windows 8.1 it is no contest Skype is better.
  • I just want the load times when getting a call to diminish. I miss a lot of calls because it taking forever to load.
  • When I answer a call, it connects immediately but the screen loads for a while. Next call try to answer then just start talking regardless what the screen says.
  • Sounds like very weak improvements, to be honest.  I expected a lot more.
  • Me too. I am disappointed by the whole Skype Windows implementation and integration of Skype and Messenger services.
  • There's alot of "basic" functions found on Skype in competing platforms still missing on windows phone. I just hope they're in place in the coming version, like sending SMS, receiving contacts from friends.
  • "Cortana send John a file" "I'm afraid I cannot do that"
  • Badly needed update. It's quite poor at the moment.
  • I want Skype to actually turn off when I click on close Skye. I don't want to have to answer 4 yesses and no's just to actually turn Skype off. That is a major pain when troubleshooting desktops for a living. It reminds me of bloatware when it asks if I'm really really sure that I want to uninstall it.. Sorry my pet peave..
  • I think that's because people usually don't understand it needs to stay open in the background to work.
  • "With mouse and keyboard users finally being taken seriously"?!!??  I am SO sick of people saying garbage like that!  None of my five computers--2 laptops, 3 PCs--are touch devices, yet I have ZERO issues using a keyboard and mouse with Win8.  I just want to slap the snot out of every single person who thinks Win8 is mouse/keyboard adverse.  How about learning how to USE a keyboard and mouse?  And Skype already HAD a desktop program, so what is the huge advent of pinning the Metro version to the task bar?  I'm just so sick of this movement to go BACKWARD because people are so simple-minded they can't adapt.
  • People HAVE adapted to Windows never, ever running any Metro apps. If Microsoft wants to change that, they need to make using Metro apps a less jarring experience, not like switching into a completely different operating system.  
  • Damn, dude! Rarely do I run into someone else's opinion that almost 100% reflects my own as much as this did.
  • And should work just like iMessage, not some side show that is to cumbersome to use.
  • And should work just like iMessage, not some side show that is to cumbersome to use.
  • What if someone calls directly on Skype and my phone is in standby will the Skype call flash up on the screen?
  • It does it already...
  • If the background task is not disabled by the user. Not using Skype for 2 weeks also disables the background agent.
  • Nothing to do with the background task. Since they only run every 30 minutes, how do you expect that to respond to a call on time? WP has a VOIP push notification API, so all calls come through that as fast as push. No background task required.
  • If you can pin metro, then why not move all functionality to metro and get rid of desktop version?
  • Because that would involve Microsoft making a competent Windows 8 application that might actually inspire developers to seriously invest in the platform.
  • Fail integration???
  • Can I use Skype to search my contacts in my phone for other Skype users?
  • So even after wp8.1 update, skype video call won't work with a bluetooth headset?? whereas skype supports the same feature in android.....
  • I think the word they use is, "elevate" the call to a video chat. :)
  • Yet we still cant attach a file (send a pic) on wp skype, yeah so advanced, move along, much better services around now, skype will die if they don't pull their finger out and make it shine.
  • And apparently it will still be a separate app. What I really want is for Skype to be integrated in the Messaging Hub, so I can receive Skype messages as fast and reliably as Messenger is right now, instead of having to wait until the app opens and the new messages download everytime I go back to Skype.
    By the way, does anybody know if they are finally removing Messenger from the Messaging Hub?
  • If you want frequent updates, it has to be a separate app. Separate app doesn't remove the possibility of integration.
  • The previous Skype is horrible! I believe we may wait and see how many improvements Microsoft and Skype Team made in this new version. I only want a skype app for Windows Phone as good as the skype app for IOS.
  • I just use the integrated chat of the message tile, my contacts see me in their skype, same with FB, why i would use another app for it? I understand it on FB but on skype? Maybe im missing something cool?
  • Just add the damn ability to share files. god...
  • How about screen sharing in the Windows 8.1 app? That's what's currently missing in the Windows 8.1 (RT) world. There are meeting apps, but we need to be able to share our screen, even if it requires a pro subscription. Micrsoft needs to be at the head of providing productivity services to it's customers. That in itself, would increase their user base through exclusivity and innovation.
  • In my case, I dont like the way that I have to link skype with my ms least we can link it with whatever account we have.....also please add busy status
  • I agree that Skype needs to be improved, and WP would be far better off if it was integrated into the OS. Especially since messenger has been eliminated, and Skype is "supposed" to replace it. I personally perfer ability far more than "apps". That being said, keep in mind something that (I think) Daniel Rubino said; Skype was not a mobile service. To make it that, MS has to basically rebuild it. No excuses, and before you chime in to spread even more tears, I agree that it should have been done already. But keep it in perspective.
    Just because the things that most of you are harping about hasn't been discussed doesn't mean it won't be included. They have Skype, GroupMe, Lync and Yammer now. There is A LOT of overlap with all of that. It would make more sense for all them to be folded into the overall Windows OS to cover all bases of communication.
  • Great, hopefully they fix the bleeding push notification issues, I receive my messages with a 10-20 minute delay...
  • "this means you can make a skype call at a touch of a button" my reaction ---- You don't say?
  • Let me replace Google Voice with Skype and I will celebrate this.  I'm fine with GV, but Google is not fine with me using it on WP ...
  • Sounds great. Is this one of those Skype updates that's going to show up on Android and iOS first and then show up on WP a few months later?
  • Can we get Skype contacts integrated already with Exchange/Outlook contacts and vice versa? It makes no sense to be maintaining separate contact databases and is hands down the most annoying part of Skype.
  • Nicolas Cage, LOL
  • How about simply delivering the things you are selling, Microsoft. I paid for a phone number so I could use it with voicemail for business. Because you are selling that. Now I find out that the voicemail will not pick up the calls if I have Skype running on my phone and my desktop, so I need to shut it down on my desktop. OK, fine, castrate my ability to answer the phone from multiple locations. I can live with that. But now I find out that I cannot pick up my voice mail messages from my phone, and I need to go log onto my desktop to pick up my messages? The desktop that I was forced to shut down so the voice mail would pick up to begin with? Why are you selling vaporware again? Didn't the Department of Justice disabuse you of that? Now what do I do, since I have printed this stinking phone number on every single marketing piece I have. Because you were selling it to me.