It may sound like a scam: Free international calls using your desktop or laptop computer if you just download some software! But Skype has proven its worth over the years, and if you sign up and download the software and have anyone you wish to call do the same thing, you can call groups, share screens, record calls, and take advantage of many other modern features.
Ask any active duty military member who has deployed overseas, and you'll probably hear some positive comments. Many military members and overseas workers set up Skype accounts for their families so they can call home for free. Calling Skype contacts on your computer won't cost you anything, though you will pay to call a mobile phone or landline.
Getting Started With Skype
First, you must download and install Skype's software, which is a simple process. After determining whether your computer complies with Skype's minimum requirements, you find your operating system on the Skype website. From there, the downloading and installation process takes just a few minutes. You will then need to launch the application and create a Skype name and password.
You will be asked for a payment method to pay for your calls and text messages to mobile phones and landlines, but if you don't use those features (or sign up for monthly unlimited plans for those features), you won't be charged for video and voice calls to other Skype users.
How to Make Calls With Skype
From your computer, you can make a voice call to an individual or a group of up to 49 other people. If you make a video call, the maximum number of streams will depend on your device and platform.
Skype is also available through a cell phone. Calls allow up to 24 people plus yourself. As long as you have a Skype number, people can reach you on your cell phone. On certain phones and tablets, you can share photos and send reactions.
Another way to use Skype is through Amazon's Alexa, available in many countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, and Spain.
Using an Xbox One is an additional method for making free one-to-one and group audio and video Skype calls around the world via your television.
Pros of Making Calls With Skype
Some people are surprised by the good sound quality and say it sounds better on Skype than on a home telephone. Skype's easy to use—just connect to the internet to make calls to and from almost anywhere in the world, and even text. Backed by a website that has help pages and a list of frequently asked questions, it is an appealing option, with the following attributes:
- Skype allows you to set up a contact list so you don't have to "dial" frequently-called numbers. You can also search for people you know on Skype so you can call them for free.
- If you need to call someone who does not have a Skype account, rates are competitive using Skype Credit. Typically calling landlines internationally is cheaper than reaching international mobile phones, and Skype also offers subscriptions to call certain places at a lower cost.
- Skype provides local phone numbers in more than 20 countries/regions.
- The company has a feature that translates conversations in many languages, including English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese (Mandarin), Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Arabic, and Russian. Texts can be translated into more than 60 languages.
Cons of Using Skype for Calls
Skype offers many useful features for communicating with loved ones and colleagues worldwide, but it does have some drawbacks. While the sound quality is often good, it can vary, based on your location and type of Internet access. Some additional cons to Skype:
- Skype's biggest negative is that it is not a complete substitute for a landline. You can only make emergency calls from a handful of locations and with particular computer programs.
- While Skype's rates are from free to very low, you also need to figure in the cost of Internet access which varies based on your location, Internet provider, and web/phone plan. You will need to carefully compare prices based on your destination country.
- You'll need access to a computer, tablet, or smartphone (or alternatively, Amazon's Alexa or an Xbox) and high-speed Internet service.
- If you normally use a cordless or cell phone and often move from room to room during a telephone call, with Skype you'll likely have to sit in one place if using a headset connected to a laptop.