Carrier free Skype app, with video chat; possibly this year?

According to a Skype PR representative who spoke to Scattertech, it's very possible that there will be a carrier free video-enabled Skype app available in the android market very soon. In April, Skype announced that they had signed an exclusive contract with Verizon Wireless concerning distribution of their mobile app. This is what they had to say regarding an app for Sprint's HTC Evo 4G:

"Skype envisions a world where video plays a larger role in the way we communicate. The next generation innovation involving video calling will not be bound to the computer. We’re seeing a proliferation of video calling shared between all kinds of connected devices. It’s on computers (today 1/3 of all calls on Skype
happen via video), televisions (Skype bringing video calls to living rooms via Panasonic, Samsung & LG partnership), and it will eventually be coming to mobile devices too. We’re betting big on video, and we intend to set the bar on mobile video calling, and it’s something we’re going to do this year.

We will be bringing a direct to consumer app to the Android marketplace later this year. This application will be available for all consumers globally to download regardless of carriers. (i.e. similar to how we offer the iPhone app today).

-Brianna Reynaud, Skype PR"

While it doesn't straight out announce the carrier free version of Skype, you'd be hard pressed to find a clearer, yet still legal, way to put it. It's exciting news for a number of reasons. Verizon's Skype app as it stands is a severely limited version of the desktop client we all know and love. It doesn't do video chat, you can only make Skype-to-Skype calls, you can't take advantage of Skype's $3/month unlimited domestic calling plan, and you can't use it on Wi-Fi; you can't even start the software if you're not on a 3G connection.

If Skype can provide a robust, carrier free, Wi-Fi and video chat enabled app for Android, and if they can do it before front facing cameras become standard on phones (right now, the two mainstream phones that have it are the HTC Evo 4G and Apple's unreleased iPhone, both coming out in June), Skype will be the go-to app for free video calling. The Evo 4G is shipping with a video calling service called Qik, but apparently there have been some strange issues with its performance. Androidguys reports that video images from the front facing camera are being transmitted as mirror images to the recipient. It's supposed to do that when you're looking at yourself in the video feed, but when the receiving end gets the stream, it shouldn't be mirrored. Also, reports Androidguys, it seems that the $10 premium data charge that Evo 4G users have to pay Sprint isn't going to cover Qik's video chatting service after all. If the training materials given to Sprint are to be believed, Qik is going to charge $5 a month for their service (using Paypal), on top of what you already pay Sprint. If Skype can take advantage of what most likely will be customer outrage over the added expense and flawed performance, they can position themselves to be the premier video calling Android app. 

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