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For the last eight months Windows Phones users have been patiently waiting for Skype on their phones, finally it is here.

Microsoft have released a beta version, this marks the first time the newly Microsoft-owned voice and video calling service is available on Microsoft’s smartphone platform.

 The app has been designed with the Metro UI very much in mind.  The application is very capable of dealing with Skype’s core functions – voice and video calling along with text chatting.  Video chatting is enhanced, naturally, with a front-facing camera phone.  However, the feature does work without so long as the person you’re talking with doesn’t object to looking at the image from the back of your phone instead of you.

The app allows users to use Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G to make video and voice calls. Instant messages received during a call appear in a notification pop-up screen which allows the users to answer while the call is in progress.

 Windows Phone 7.5 introduced new multitasking capabilities therefore allowing applications to play music in the background and run periodic scheduled tasks, however it only supports certain scenarios and VoIP is not one of those supported.  This therefore leaves the user being unable to check details in an email for the person they are calling without hanging up first, then checking and then calling back again once Skype is in the foreground. Skype calls can be made and received when it’s running in the foreground, but as soon as you switch away the application goes offline.

 On the plus side there is a neat jump list which allows the user to easily find their contacts with improved profile pages for contacts.

 Microsoft is promising the final release in April, the applications problems will no doubt be fixed by the Skype team before then. The result will be an application that is functional and useful for outbound calls at least.  However the platform changes need to be made by the Windows Phone team and until they make these changes Skype will be of limited usefulness as a mobile application.

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