Skype Video for Android
Many, many users of Android phones and tablets have been looking for simple,
reliable video chat tools.
Until recently, the most popular video chat apps included - "Tango", - "Fring", and - "ReelPortal", each of which have been available for a long time and have garnered a fair share of users.
However, the - "500 pound gorilla" - of video chat has always been: Skype.
Skype is very well known among PC, Macintosh, and Linux users. It's the dominant Voice-over IP technology, with hundreds of millions of users. Skype has offered reliable, good-quality video communication on those platforms for years. But on most Android devices, Skype video was not available until the concluding months of 2011.
We are very pleased to reveal that we have been using Skype Video with good success on and between two Android tablets recently. We use:
1 of 2: The WiFi-only 7" Samsung Galaxy Tab, and:
2 of 2: The 7" Archos 70 Internet tablet, which is also a WiFi-only device.
It has been interesting to watch the development and availability of Skype Video on Android devices. In May of 2011, Microsoft announced that it had agreed to aquire Skype for $8.5 billion, and the business transaction was finally completed in October. During that period, everybody was wondering whether Skype would ever become fully developed on Android platforms, since Microsoft is committed to their own, competing systems. However, we were encouraged to see several new releases of Skype for Android that announced availability of Video services on more and more Android devices.
We tried several of these releases with varying degrees of success on our two Android tablets. The first version that we found that works reliably and supports video on the Samsung Galaxy Tab is version 22.214.171.124. However, it isn't perfect: it supports only the rear-facing camera. We tried some subsequent versions on our Samsung Galaxy Tab (hoping for support of both cameras), but none worked as well as 126.96.36.199, and in the process, we learned of a severe bug that made it impossible to completely UNINSTALL Skype without - "root" - priveleges and some detailed, manual file removal that most users will find beyond their level of patience. For the time being, we're sticking with Version 188.8.131.52 and the Galaxy Tab's rear-facing camera.
On the Archos 70 Internet tablet, we had to wait for Skype version 184.108.40.206, but it works well, supporting the device's single, front-facing camera.
Would you like to see how this works between the 2 devices? Just click on the video links below!
While we have the Samsung Galaxy Tab handy, we might as well reveal the sad tale of our experience with it. It has been a great disappointment, and the irony is that it should never have been so. It is well built from quality components, and it is sufficiently powerful to excel in the environment for which it was advertised. The advertised - "specs" - are very, very good.
However, the version we were sold was severely - "crippled" - in a misguided attempt to encourage sales of Samsung's more lucrative models.
Specifically, we bought the - "WiFi Only" - version, model number GT-P1010. None of the advertised data warned us that many of it's most important potential features would be disabled. In fact, Samsung happily sold us, at extra cost, the cables and connectors to connect it with devices through interfaces that they had disabled.
Our first disappointment came after we struggled to access the big disk drive connected to our network. We use this - "Network Attached Storage"- device for central storage of all of our files, and it relies on the well-known, industry standard - "SMB" - or - "SAMBA" - protocols. (This is described in other areas here at AskMisterWizard.com.) All of our Windows and LINUX PCs can access these files, and the Archos 70 Internet tablet (running Android 2.2) has no trouble with it. But the Samsung Galaxy tab just doesn't work with it: it demands authentication for files and folders that don't require authentication, and it just fails at every access attempt. This was a HUGE disappointment for us, because it isolates the Galaxy tab from all of our media files: music, movies, home videos, photos, and documents. Because Android normally includes support for SAMBA file sharing, we conclude that Samsung's management team must have paid their engineers to remove this functionality for some reason. There is just no excuse for this.
Our next disappointment came after we struggled to connect an external disk drive through the advertised USB 2 interface. This is something that the Archos I70 Internet tablet handles easily, through a well-known adapter that is capable of converting most USB2 client connections into USB "Host" mode. But it didn't work on our Samsung Galaxy Tab model.
Another big disappointment came after we purchased Samsung's - "Composite Stereo Video Cable" adapter directly from Samsung's web site. Here it is....
As you can see, the box clearly states -- "Supports Stereo and Standard Video Signal Between Tablet and Other Multimedia Devices" -- "compatible with Samsung Galaxy Tab".
However, it wouldn't work. We could get audio out, but not video. We tried it with several different TV monitors. We bought a second cable, on the assumption that the first one was defective. We spent hours on the phone with Samsung Technical Support. They described configuration and menu options that our Galaxy Tab just wouldn't display. Everybody was mystified. Eventually, our little - "issue" - was - "escalated" - to a special Samsung Technical Support department. They identified themselves as - "Executive Technical Support". They revealed that the TV Out feature had been deliberately - DISABLED - on the WiFi only model of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. When I complained that none of the advertisements for that device had warned me of this egregious infraction of justice and that they had sold me an adapter that claimed compatibility, they apologized but refused my suggestion that they should replace the device with something that had not been deliberately crippled.
We do like our Samsung Galaxy Tab for basic web surfing, email, GPS, and Skype. We've adapted our usage patterns with it to focus on those activities. But it just isn't nearly as useful as the Archos 70 Internet Tablet (even though it costs a lot more)!
Obviously Samsung's business is focused on subscription devices. They aren't selling these WiFi-only devices through their big, subscription-oriented distributors like AT&T. We suspect that some misguided marketing expert at Samsung insisted that the Engineers - "cripple" - the WiFi-only device to please their big distributors, who want to sell subscriptions. We are very disappointed to learn that Samsung is willing to misrepresent their products in this manner, and we won't be buying any more Samsung products until we hear of a significant reformation there!