Now there's one less reason to pack your laptop on trips -- Skype 3.0 for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch (now available free from the iTunes app store) can now do video chat in addition to voice and text chat.
iPad video chat is limited to receiving video of course, as the iPad and previous-generation iPod Touch don't have a video cameras, and iPhone 3GS users are limited to using the rear-facing video camera which rather counts out two-way video chat sessions.
Australian Business Traveller tested Skype 3.0 using two iPhone 4s and two dishevelled people readying themselves for New Year's Eve celebrations.
Quality over WiFi was acceptable but noticeably lower than that offered by Apple's own FaceTime video chat.
Making video calls over 3G with Skype is a fairly disappointing experience. Even with both phones on Telstra, which is Australia's (and one of the world's) fastest mobile networks for data, it still took 20 seconds to connect the call, and froze for 30 second gaps during the conversation. Skype also struggled to keep up with movement on screen.
Because promotional shots for video chat software are invariably misleading, with carefully carefully Photoshopped professionally photographed high-res images transplanted into the screenshot, we've taken some 'real-life' screenshots so you can see what the quality is like on Skype and FaceTime.
Screenshots: Facetime vs Skype 3.0 for iPhone
The grainy picture in a Skype 3.0 WiFi video call (above) falls well short of the sharper, smoother and cleaner images provided by the iPhone 4's inbuilt FaceTime app (below).
Using Skype to make a two-way video call over 3G is very disappointing. Here's the best result we achieved, with both iPhones connecting over Telstra's Next G network:
Unfortunately, more often than not a Skype 3G video chat was rendered unusable by freezing calls and a poor ability to keep up with any movement on screen (below).