May 22, 2011
As you’ve no doubt heard, Microsoft has snapped up popular VoIP developer Skype for a whopping $8.5 billion. If you’re not too fond of your favorite video chat software now being in the hands of the Borg, you’ll be happy to know there are other choices available.
It’s hard to believe that Skype has been around less than a decade, with most of that time being spent as under the ownership of another company — first eBay in 2005, then Silver Lake in 2009. Tuesday marked a new era for the little VoIP company that could, with Microsoft acquiring the company outright for $8.5 billion and big plans to set up its own Skype division in Redmond.
As with any such acquisition, there’s a bit of anxiety brewing among longtime users of the Skype service, particularly after the company’s Mac client got an unwelcome, Windows-style update recently. Could worse updates be in store? Here’s a look at a handful of Skype-esque services you might consider if Microsoft doesn’t improve things.
5 Skype Alternatives
Available on the Mac (99 cents via the Mac App Store) as well as iOS devices, Apple’s own FaceTime service is a great free alternative to Skype — assuming you don’t need text chat, file transfer or the ability to connect over 3G. In the case of the iPad 2, it’s one of the only native video chat services currently available, and the price is certainly right.
Although there’s no desktop-based version, fring is a great solution for iOS users, particularly if you want group video calling, live text chat and even the ability to make cheap international calls (via “fringOut,” the company’s own version of SkypeOut credit). fring is also available on Android devices, which broadens the scope of who you can call up.
In addition to bundling IM services from AIM, Yahoo, MSN, ICQ, GoogleTalk, Facebook, and MySpace, the Nimbuzz iOS app also offers their own Skype-esque service with free HD voice quality calls. For now, it’s voice and text only, but there’s also a Mac and PC client so you can keep in touch from your computer as well.
If you’re primarily looking for free voice and video calls, Tango has what you’re looking for — and unlike FaceTime, it works over both 3G and Wi-Fi, although the iOS client isn’t optimized yet for the iPad 2. Sadly there’s no desktop connectivity as yet, but since our iOS device is always with us, who cares?
Is it possible to outdo Skype? VoxOx thinks so, and its desktop software provides all of Skype’s key features, as well as free voicemail, conference calls, translation, and even fax services. The free VoxOx Call iOS app allows the key features to be used while on the go. Did we mention it’s free to sign up and get started?