Skype is by far the largest VoIP service on our list and in the world for that matter. Founded in 2003, Skype gained extreme popularity by using the basic combination of a ‘Freemium’ model along with video calls and instant messaging. It also increased in exposure when tech giant Microsoft acquired them back in May 2011. They have since expanded their service to include some nice features and extras, however you will be paying a premium as this certainly is no value proposition. Nevertheless, this has not deterred people from joining Skype. While the exact number is unclear, the last we heard about Skype was that it had close to 300 million customers worldwide. To put that in perspective, our best rated VoIP service, RingCentral, has somewhere in the ballpark of 500,000 customers. Though Skype’s dominance is clear, does that make them a top VoIP provider? Read below!
In regard to Skype and its features offering, we will be blunt: they fall flat. There is no call returning or call blocking. There is no enhanced 911 feature. There is no fax support or 411 directory assistance. To say we were surprised when we saw Skype’s limited feature list is an understatement. Here is a company with hundreds of millions of users worldwide and with almost unlimited resources and backing. This begs the question of how is this possible. For now, we will leave that for Skype to answer. That said, this is not to say their feature list is completely useless though. On the contrary; they are most definitely a top VoIP service provider and some of their features, including their fantastic text and video chat, are highly beneficial for all types of VoIP users. It is clean, efficient and easy to use. Aside from that, however, their feature range is relatively standard:
- Unlimited minutes
- Skype mobile app (free)
- Speed dial
- Call transfer
- Conference calling
- Virtual phone number
- Choose your number’s area code
- No setup/cancellation fee
- Business plans
Ease of Use
Skype’s overall phenomenal usability is well documented. While their marketing definitely played a role in their takeover of the VoIP market, it was their user interface and intuitiveness that gained popularity. The download process itself may be one of the longest procedures on the market. It is a heavy piece of software after all. However, once you get through the download process, you will be hard pressed to find an easier to use VoIP service than Skype. Additionally, from a user standpoint, the ability to text chat with multiple people while being on a separate video call is a huge benefit. While this may be considered a feature, Skype has done a great job implementing this with their software’s user interface.
A key determining factor in your search for the best VoIP service is pricing. This is where Skype is the undisputed king, as you will not find better pricing in the VoIP industry. Skype offers two simple and straightforward plans: unlimited or pay as you go (via purchasing Skype credit). We generally have a table breakdown for pricing however Skype’s plan is so straightforward we will list it as is:
- Pay As You Go – 2.3 cents/minute
- Unlimited Domestic – U.S. & Canada – from $6.99/month
- Unlimited World – over 60 countries – from $13.99/month
Another major pricing benefit, as we pointed out in the features section, is that there is absolutely no cancellation or setup fee with Skype.
Skype’s customer support can be directly equated with HostGator and their support – many channels but relatively slow response time. While phone and personal e-mail support are not available, you can contact Skype any other way. Skype is known for their ‘online community’ which is the most active forum, by far, of any cloud service we have encountered. They also boast a helpful knowledgebase and a fantastic FAQ section. Moreover, you can always contact Skype through all major social media outlets. However, as we mentioned, you can expect relatively slower response times, most likely due to the absurd amount of customers they have.
Reliability (Call Quality)
There may not be a better support section for reliability in the VoIP industry than Skype. Aside from having a dedicated page (named ‘Heartbeat’) which updates you on any issues, they operate a workspace blog and tips and tricks to help you maximize your call quality and reliability. All of the preferred routers and various tips are listed in multiple languages for users worldwide. That said, the overall sentiment is that Skype has superior reliability. At the end of each call, you are asked to rate the call quality. The support team then sends this to quality assurance to help better the program. All in all, and not taking into account your personal internet connection (which plays a large role in your reliability), Skype has done all that it can on their end to ensure top quality for their customers.
If you are looking for an extremely affordable VoIP service and a brand name, Skype is your choice. While they may be limited in their features, their pricing and commitment to excellent reliability more than makes up for it. If you are a business who will be spending a significant amount of hours on the phone, you may want to check out RingCentral. Otherwise, Skype is your choice.