Universal Skype app exits preview, but is it really ready for prime time?
I've never been much of a fan of the universal Skype app. But now that it's out of preview, is it actually any better?
I was a huge fan of Messaging Everywhere on Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile. It was simple, clean and incredibly fast. And it was built right into the universal Messaging app, which I adore to this day for it's clean, minimalistic look. So when Microsoft announced it was killing Messaging Everywhere in favor of Skype SMS Relay, I was sad. Very sad.
However, I convinced myself that maybe Skype would do it well. So after waiting a long time for SMS Relay to show up in the Skype universal app, I was disappointed by how slow, ugly and unfinished the app was. But it was still in preview, so it wasn't really fair to judge.
Now the universal Skype app is no longer in preview, and I decided to try it again. I switched my default SMS client from the Messaging app to Skype, and I set up my desktop and laptop for SMS relay with my phone. The set-up process was easy enough. You just enable SMS Relay and then type in a security passcode on the device you want to relay from.
Has Skype really improved?
My original gripes with the Skype Preview app had to do with sluggish performance, terrible contact and conversation management, and most importantly, unreliable SMS relaying.
Let's dive into the sluggish performance issue first. With the Skype app coming out of preview, the performance has improved. However, it's not as fast as I'd like it to be, and it's definitely not as fast as the original Messaging app with Messaging Everywhere. No matter how you put it, the Skype app is still slower than the Messaging app.
I know the Skype app has a lot more to deal with than the Messaging app, but that's not the point. Microsoft wants me to use the Skype app for SMS Relay instead of the much faster Messaging app. If the company wants me to use Skype, at least make it as fast as the older system first. I'm still not impressed with how slow the Skype app is. I know many people don't care, especially with Actionable Notifications, but I do. I want it to be, at minimum, the same speed as the Messaging app.
Moving onto contact and conversation management. Skype Preview was an absolute dog when it came to managing contacts and conversations. More often than not, I'd find duplicate contacts in my Skype contacts list because the app didn't know how to merge contacts with the same number. That meant you'd usually find two conversations for the same person, one with Skype messages and one with SMS messages. It was a mess. I'm pleased that with the Skype app exiting preview, these issues have been mostly mended.
Apart from one time where it returned (briefly), I've had no issues with contact management or conversation duplicates with the Skype app. Skype seems to now understand that you might already have a contact in your address book, and instead of duplicating, it merges them instead. That's a nice touch.
Finally, SMS relay reliability. When in preview, Skype failed to send an SMS from my PC or laptop around 40 percent of the time. With the app now out of preview, I've yet to see the app fail to send an SMS. I'm super impressed with how much more reliable SMS is now, and I'm very happy to see it has improved.
Skype as my main messaging app?
So will I be using the universal Skype app for my SMS needs from now on? No. While there have been some great improvements it's still not perfect. For one, the UI is rubbish and looks entirely unfinished. I like the clean minimalistic look of the Messaging app.
Above all, the Skype app is still slow compared to the Messaging app. I like being able to jump into the Messaging app and start a conversation incredibly quickly. With Skype, it takes a few seconds longer. Hopefully this will be improved in upcoming releases.
What do you think? Does the universal Skype app deserve to be out of preview? Do you use it as your main messaging app?
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Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.
The app is still too slow (especially getting into and out of messages).
The app has a problem where it will duplicate the message thread (you only have one actual thread, but it will split it out into two when getitng into the app the first time).
It doesn't tie pictures and texts into the same message (whether sent or received, it will split them out into two messages, so I have to send them from the regular messaging app).
App has problem sending texts when the phone is locked (if this is something that must be circumvented, then it would be fine if they acknowledged it. My understanding is that since they haven't acknowledged it and it works sometimes, it should work all the time).
If you have multiple failed messages sent in a row on the same thread from the PC, you'll only be given a button to resend the most recent one.
The app doesn't update the message counts reliably enough.
The app doesn't have lockscreen support like the messaging app does (it seems like everyone's just forgotten about this, but I loved having that available to display my most recent message in the messaging app)
Etc. The last issue I have is very specific, but I had a contact on my phone where I had two mobile numbers for them. The default mobile number became invalid later and the second one became the other person's primary number. Therefore everytime I had to send a message, I would have to change the number (select the SMS number, press the gear, switch to the second number). Though I updated the contact in the People app (this happened before Skype got out of preview), yet it would not show up in the profile of the person on the Skype app, so it continued to default to sending my messages to the invalid number. I couldn't change the default number, but could only change/remove the second number, which is this contact's primary number now. Even if I removed the contact from the Skype app (deleted the profile), when adding this person back, the app would default again to their old number. I can't remember exactly what the solution was, but it took some manner of deleting the contact and readding it that finally enabled me to set this person's default number to their actual number. This was entirely too stressful off a process, because Skype's contact management was terrible. I don't know if it's gotten better, but this is what I'm putting up with in order to text from my PC. MS had a perfectly working solution to all of this with the Messaging Everywhere initiative, but they completely bungled this nicety just by making this shift.
Incoming messages are stamped with network time.
Any deviation (drift) between the two will cause the messages to appear out of order. I live in a place where we don't change time zones. During daylight savings time, a friend was messaging me and all of a sudden, his messages started to appear an hour earlier in the chat history. SUPER ANNOYING. FIFO is the way messaging apps work and I've upvoted the feedback within the feedback app on PC and Mobile.
The other bummer is, Skype at work is blocked on the network. That's not Skype's fault, but the unified messaging service worked since it wasnt tied to a popular messaging/call app.