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iSkoot For Skype On Android-A Difference In Experience

The Washington Post via TechCrunch drew attention to the new iSkoot's client for Skype on the Android G1.

My experience with the app was one that was not really what I expected it to be and I really wasn't going to write about it because I know from experience that the folks at iSkoot are capable of some really exceptional work, but since TC pushed it out and it made the Washington Post I wanted to provide some deeper insight to provide some balance to the story. As background the iSkoot client on the SkypePhone is nothing short of amazing, and others tell me the client on the BlackBerry works very well too. But on the G1, it's a non-starter until a lot of things that are very significant to the success of it get worked out, and unfortunately for iSkoot and the users, some of it may not only be technical. Having been using the iSkoot software on the SkypePhone and now SkypePhone2 in the UK, I can tell you it has been the one device and app that is a MUST carry and MUST use whenever I'm in the UK as it really does simplify my life when it comes to telephony.

Here are the issues I found over after a few days of trying the app at different times since last Wednesday:

1) It doesn't really work very well. My attempts on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to connect by voice to others on my Skype buddy list failed each and every time.

2) The load and sync time takes minutes, not seconds. This may be a server issue, but since iSkoot isn't inside the T-Mobile network yet, like they are with Three (3) the problem likely won't go away too soon despite all of iSkoots world class engineers in Israel working to solve it.

3) Presence isn't working right. I never saw my entire Skype buddy list as the presence information seems to not be real time. As a matter of fact, sometimes you don't see your buddies on line that you may be chatting with on a Mac or PC using the real Skype client. I call it "pseudo presence," which brings me to my next point. Is this really Skype on the Android or not? I think not.

The above three factors are what makes Skype so useful. If you don't have them, you don't have Skype, and only have a pretender.

Reports also keep stirring that Skype is building their own client for a few devices beyond desktops and palmtops (the Nokia N810 is one great example) so things like Androids and iPhones have to come to mind, but when they get released is the question. I'd guess Q1 of next year, but I'm simply guessing. If so, it wouldn't surprise me if there was some degree of non-cooperative spirit between the two companies right now.

Having loved my experience with iSkoot on the SkypePhone and now SkypePhone2 I know that the team there can build a really good platform and an application that works fabulously, so I have to wonder if whether its the Android platform, T-Mobile's network or the Skype presence server interaction that makes all this so different. Given all of the above if I was iSkoot, I'd would pull the app, get it right or list it as Alpha and not put it in the Android Market so soon....and for the most important aspect of what iSkoot would bring to the Android and T-Mobile, call quality, unfortunately, given the errors there's no way I can report about that, as none of my calls ever got completed.

With 1.5 million Androids sold, including the 30 per T-Mobile stores that received them, getting grabbed up in hours on the first day, there was an immediate thirst for quality application that developers had a chance to capture ala the Apple iPhone. Clearly this was not as well done as the iPhone App Store launch which despite where the store had technical glitches, what was released inside to make calls worked from day one. And that may be the big difference between the Android and iPhone. The fact that Apple understands what a finished product is all about, versus something that is always beta. Think about it, when's the last time you saw Apple release a Beta of anything to the general public, let alone hype it via the blogosphere. Then again, even today, Google's Gmail remains Beta (including the paid for version.)

Unfortunately, the iSkoot app while not listed as Beta, really has to be viewed that way. And sadly, so does the entire Android Platform.

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