Skype still stinks in my experience…

Skype sucksJust got off the, um, headset from a conference call that we enabled via the popular Skype service, and I have to say that the voice quality just stunk. It was worse than bad cellphone coverage in an noisy room, and both of us had high-speed connections and good audio equipment.
I have watched Skype evolve over the last few years, and was impressed by the eBay acquisition, figuring that the injection of funds would allow the Skype team to take the application to the next level. Skype 2.0 is a definite step forward in product capabilities. But…

Am I really the only one who would rather pay for a phone call than suffer through a Skype call, however?
Heck, the last half-dozen conference calls I done with the free service have worked out splendidly (and automatically given us a recording of the event afterwards), so that’s certainly not a compelling Skype-only feature.
The poor call quality also can’t be attributed to us using an Internet connection either, because before we switched our call over to Skype I had called fellow blogger Jitendra on my Vbuzzer VOIP line and it sounded great with just a tiny bit of crackle as, presumably, some other data packets shoved ours out of the way. Switching to Skype, however, instantly degraded the call to the point where it was difficult for me to understand what he was saying at least 30% of the time.
I have to admit, however, that the Skype service itself offers lots of very cool capabilities and we used Unyte to let me see his Windows desktop as we talked. Or, at least, tried to talk.
Hold on, don’t assume that’s the problem, because I realize that the desktop sharing application is going to consume bandwidth and that could well have had a deleterious effect on the connection quality, but good quality voice is the #1 requirement for a Skype connection.
Isn’t it reasonable for me to expect that adding additional capabilities wouldn’t be at the price of crippling the core functionality of the product?
Again, I ask, what are your experiences with Skype? Do you find that the voice quality is good, “good enough”, excellent, or do you just skip using it for any sort of serious conversation?

20 comments on “Skype still stinks in my experience…

  1. Good post… Typically skype is not so bad but I guess we hit it during peak time (do they even have peak time)????
    Overall though Skype is essential to us as we have a cross continent team and Skype (along with Unyte) provides us with a pretty good communication platform if not a collaboration platform (We still use 37 signal’s basecamp for collaboration and project management)

  2. Skype call quality has been excellent in my experiences. I’m not a heavy user by any means, but the dozen or so total hours I’ve used it has been a good experience.
    The only time I’ve experienced any call quality issues, and even at that not remotely as bad as you describe, was when I was in Europe on a hotel wireless network talking with someone back in the office in the US. Latency between the sites was 200-300 ms with significant jitter, yet voice quality was excellent the vast majority of the time. There were just a few brief periods where the other person sounded “tinny”, though still completely audible and understandable. I don’t even travel with a headset, I use the built in mic and speakers in my ASUS laptop which work amazingly well considering. Given the network conditions, I expected poor performance and possibly for it to be completely unusable. I was pleasantly surprised, and actually shocked at how well it worked under the conditions.
    Skype is my preferred means of communication when I’m out of the country, and I don’t anticipate that changing. When in the US, my cell phone is just a lot more convenient and the cost so minimal it doesn’t factor into the decision.

  3. Dave,
    We use Skype alot between two office locations located across the state of PA. We’ve noticed that for the most part quality is good to very good. But, I agree with you that there are times when quality is annoyingly poor. Reception seems to vary with the number of users logged into Skype. For instance, yesterday when reception was rather poor, there were over 8 millions users logged on it. Today at about the same time, there was a paltry 5 million and reception was fairly good. One suggestion would be to consider Google Talk when Skype is crammed. We tried that for the first time yesterday afternoon and it was fairly good and reliable.

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever once used Skype and not been randomly dropped off after a while. It’s great when the call doesn’t matter, but I’d hate using it for business calls.

  5. First off, think about upgrading to the latest 3.0 release; much better.
    Second, Skype uses memory, processor power, and connectivity. So you may have other applications competing for those resources. When I have quality problems, I start by shutting down Outlook.

  6. I’ve been happy with Skype, on my laptop, talking to relatives internationally. At work, we’ve had problems using it on conference calls while using a desktop-sharing software and navigating the web. I’m not sure it’s the right app for power-users.
    Totally frustrating when it’s not good. Too frustrating really.

  7. Living in China, I have noticed some very interesting/abnormal behavior on Skype since the Taiwan earthquakes that severed cross-Pacific access. Some friends and I have a hypothesis that the mostly Europe-based Skype servers were able to weather the post-quake connection problems because they were not dependent on servers in the Americas, when American services absolutely disappeared.
    Maybe, since the undersea fiber-optic cables are still not repaired and Asian (especially the huge amount of Chinese) traffic is mostly routing backwards through Europe to the Americas, it is the timing of your calls in the past few weeks unknowingly causing the problem. If it is a bad time, especially American nights (Chinese morning), you have both China and America up, and all that traffic crossing Europe instead of the heafty lines that should be functioning between Asia and the Americas.
    This is just a thought, but if you have always had this problem (that is, before the December 26? earthquakes) and if it is not a particular time of day, this probably is not the problem. I am just thinking about possibilities.

  8. Yes, I have had GREAT reception with Skype for at least 90% of the time I have used it! I just used it for the first time today with my PDA. The call was amazingly clear! I think that they have improved call quality since they went from a free service for cell phones and ground phones.

  9. My experiences with Skype have been quite good. Sure there have been times when I’ve been talking to colleagues of mine when the quality has been a bit iffy, but all in all, it’s quite good. It definitely comes in handy when talking to insurance leads and customers, but of course I use the phone as well as Skype.

  10. One of the big advantages for me with Skype is that I don’t have to figure out what time it is in New York, or Boulder for that matter, if I want to talk to someone and not wake them up in the middle of the night. I can see whether they are available. I have the default set to chat so I just send the text – you available? – or such. Then we either use chat or voice.
    Sometimes the voice bit breaks up so much that I switch to POTS. That happens whether I’m connected to Sydney or Dallas.
    So far, I find it valuable but would not use it for a pitch or a mission-critical conference. I use it for coaching one client, but he’s cool about that because his company is using Skype, for nationwide, intra-company communications at least, and as much as is feasible. Again, we have had to switch to POTS a couple of times when I could only decipher every third word.
    BTW I notice I get a lot of ‘long tail’ visits to odd items I’ve posted about Skype, some so long ago I forget what I wrote. I suspect a lot of people are trying to figure it out and personally I’ve never found the Skype site itself v illuminating.

  11. Hi Dave,
    I have 99% great experience with Skype, including skype-to-skype and skype-to-regular phones service.
    I guess you just had a bad day.

  12. Skype has extremely poor performance all the time and awful, tinny, choppy sound quality. Also the video stutters and the picture is heavily distorted by plenty of artifacts. I will never use it again.

  13. Well, I’m based in the UK, and I was thinking of trying skype, but this lady called me using it the other day, and she sounded like she had a wastepaper bin over hear head.
    I’m just not sure whether it is worth the risk of sounding unprofessional when I’m on the phone to customers, for the sake of saving a bit on the phone costs.

  14. Good evening Mister Taylor,
    1. I do agree with you that skype is somehow and somewhat frustrating and especially not reliable. Sometimes you do get really good quality and sometimes with the same machine conditions (softwares, hardware…) you fail to hear half of your partner says.
    2. you ask why we stick to it. Well simply because other VoIP most of us tried before Slype when it started to be on the market were as poor as it and most of the time you had to pay for the soft. Now the quality did not improve and even worsen? Yes, mostly true in all likehood. But now all of our friends have it and hard to ask them to switch to something else.
    3. On the other side you seem to propose RTC (French word for normal phone lines which I don’t know the translation in English) line conference service. I have been verifying FreeConferenceCall. It might suit your needs (obviously it does since you describe it in very good terms) but this is true in the US for US only customers. Lets take an example: I want to talk with friends from/to Belgium/France (BrusselsParis 320Kms = 200 miles). If I tale this solution I will have to use special phone numbers (0826xxxxxx in France and 070xxxxxxx in Belgium) that will charge me 15€cent/minute=over 0.20$!!! More expansive than an international call between France and Belgium! And I don’t even mention the fact that I travel a lot, I am currently in China and that I can use (poor) IP phone with my wife in Europe with th webcam and see the children on it for FREE. I suppose you know how expensive is an international call to/from China.
    Well you see, those are our reasons to stick to Skype : social network effect (all friends referenced under Skype), over 70% of the time a good quality (I do agree 30% of bad quality is not “business acceptable”) and an ability to us it all over the world as soon as you have an internet connection, that is free in most of the cheap hotels you can find in Europe and in Asia! (not true for the palaces).
    I wish we had the same phone service quality you have in the US all over Europe and Asia but most of the time it is far more expensive, when we have the quality.
    However keep on giving us your opinion, even if we disagree a little sometimes (not in the technical part) it is always very interesting.

  15. Hi, I just used Skype (3.5) with my wife in the other room and later being on another continent and I must say: This company is just ridiculous. The quality is so mediocre. I don’t want to say its totally unacceptable but the Skype guys have just missed the evolution of the internet completely. The first time I used an internet voice service was MS Messanger in 2000 with a dial-up 56kb phone connection. Most of you probably don;t remember this existed but the call quality and software stability was exactly the same. Given that technological capabilities have evolved significantly since then I don’t understand how SKye could stay behind!! I was so disappointed using Skype today but I can now understand why they will never make money from this service other than by selling their t-Shirts!! SKype sucks and Ebay will regret this acquisition. Back in 2002 a bunch of college students in my class at Cornell developed some software for internet voice and video conferencing. The quality of their prototype was better than what Skype is offering now. I think all SKype is investing in is developing new Emoticons! Keep on sleeping SKYPE!

  16. For a couple of weeks now I have tried to buy Skype credits and a monthly subscription, but nothing works. I have tried Visa, Mastercard and PayPal. I even tried to use my wifes Visa. The Skype support is practically non existing. All the do is sending preformatted email templates in responce to support tickets.
    And I once loved Skype because I thought they could challange the BIG telco’s… but now they have become a GIANT telco themselves.

  17. It’s 2 years past the original post and Skype still sucks. We had to abandon a simple two ended Skype call yesterday because of first a 5 second delay echo and then severe packet loss. And we both had a fat pipe and fast machines. Picked up the office desk phone… flawless and crystal clear call.

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