If we did a word association with the phrase "video chat," your response would probably be "Skype" (unless you're a strict Apple user, in which case "FaceTime" would probably come up). For many years, Skype has been the go-to video chat program for millions, keeping grandparents in touch with their grandchildren; children with their parents; friends who live across the country with each other; family with a member traveling overseas; and dozens of other uses.
Skype has also kept improving with features like HD video and group chat. However, some of Skype's great new features, like group chat, never really made it to Skype on mobile gadgets. Part of that was technical limitations and the strain of looking at a bunch of people on a small screen. With high-powered tablets and large-screen smartphones now the norm, the latest mobile Skype release is finally catching up.
Group chat is arriving on smartphones and tablets, and Skype is also raising the limit on attendees from 5 people to 25 people. You could host an entire virtual family reunion, although having 25 people crammed on your screen probably isn't going to work very well.
However, Skype has some tricks to help. You can pull up the entire group in a grid view, so you can see all of them at once. Or you can switch to focus mode, so when someone is talking their image will expand to fill the screen. There's also a "Pin" option that lets you keep specific people in view at all times.
Say you've gotten the family together virtually to celebrate a grandchild's birthday. You can pin the child's video window so it's always visible and you can see their reaction no matter who is talking.
In addition to expanding group chat, Skype is bringing another great feature to mobile. Since October, for computer users, Skype lets you send a chat link to someone through email or social media that lets them join your chat even if they don't have Skype. There is no downloading or signing up needed.
Skype has now brought that feature to mobile. You can email or text a link to anyone and if they have Skype it will open up your chat. If they don't have Skype, it will launch the Web version through their browser so they can join. That's great if you're talking with a friend and have a question for another friend. Shoot them a link and pull them into a three-way conversation on the fly.
These features are rolling out to Europe and North America today, so expect to see if show up within the next weeks or two. Skype is planning to have it rolled out worldwide by the end of March.
Watch the video below to see the new Skype features in action: