April 7, 2009

Skype Mobile Battle: iPhone vs PSP

[Correction: My PSP-3000 actually has an integrated-mic at the bottom of the LCD screen, several sources online have said so; I've personally tested this tonight and it works fabulous, 4/8/09]

Skype, one of the most used IM/Chat/VOIP/Video-Conferencing application for PC and Mac is slowly working its dominance up the mobile alley and we love it! I've always known it's support for Windows Mobile, Nokia devices and Wifi Phones (Skype Phones) but it was the recent integration with Sony's Playstation Portable firmware upgrade as well as the hot-off-the-press Skype for iPhone/iPod Touch that is really cooking up some serious mobile progress. With Skype application for BlackBerry phones coming soon, Skype is in a very good position to become one of the leaders in mobile application. Having Skype on the go across multiple platform is definitely going to enhance our mobile experience, this is very exciting indeed.

In this article, I will attempt to compare Skype for iPhone vs Skype for Playstation Portable. I'll update this entry when the BlackBerry version becomes available. The iPhone (iPod Touch) and Playstation Portable is arguably two of the most popular gadgets for travelers on the go. When I review communication gadgets or software, I always like to imagine myself traveling abroad where I would not have access to a local cell phone and would like to keep in touch with friends or family at the luxury of my own mobile gadget. The appeal of Skype has always been there for me for that reason, that is why a laptop has been essential for all my travels until smartphones started to feature applications to support various communication needs such as Fring. That said, I think iPhone or Playstation Portable (PSP) are two of the most carried devices for travelers. I can just see myself in an airport lounge dialing international long distance over WiFi to keep in touch with loved ones via either device.

Skype for iPhone
The iPhone and iPod Touch needs very little introduction. With a large touch screen display and portrait layout, it makes a very good UI candidate for Skype (much like its desktop counterpart). Everything is integrated so well together on this handy little app. For example, your contacts from your iPhone is automatically hooked up with Skype in addition to its default contact list. To see who is online, you can easily toggle the software button towards the top of the screen. One of the big advantage of iPhone is it's integrated microphone that Skype can take advantage of w/o the need of additional headset. The VOIP function will only work in a WiFi environment (at home, coffee house, airport lounges, etc...) whereas the text Chats can work over your phone's standard data plan. I love the fact that this little app does everything its desktop counter part can do, including editing one's profile or add more skype-out funds over the handset. Overall, its an amazing application that has been done right, I love it and its free to download!

Pros: Excellent UI and layout, very easy to use and intuitive. Perfect integration to leverage iPhone's hardware (buttons, camera, etc...) Everything your desktop skype can do can be done here!
Cons: No VOIP over 3G data, no web-cam video conference, app must be installed separately (only mentioning this because PSP is part of firmware OS)

Skype for Playstation Portable (PSP)
I love the convenience of having my beloved PSP-3000 as a gaming device and knowing it can also surf the web w/ Flash while keeping up with the communications needs via Skype. No application to install here, its part of the firmware 3.90+ upgrade. While the PSP doesn't have a touchscreen UI and the horizontal layout is not taking avantage of the screen real estate as much, it does offer a full suite of Skype features. The SkypeOut and VOIP PC calls are there along with text chat. Because of the onscreen keyboard is driven by the directional keys and based on the 12-button numeric pad, it can be frustrating when compared to the overall iPhone experience. The one part I have to gripe about is the need of an external mic. My Griffin Tune Buds Mobile w/ integrated mic works great but if I forgot my headphones at home then I am stuck with only text chats capabilities. While Sony and Skype recommend you buy their official headset/mic kit, the iPhone OEM headset w/ mic should work as well. Sony should have integrated a mic solution, afterall, this is their 3rd revision to the PSP franchise. Lets hope Skype will be available for the DS or DSi someday. Overall, I still enjoy having the option of running Skype on my PSP. While its unlikely I'll be traveling only the PSP, I can see myself using the PSP for Skype to conserve the battery life for my iPhone while traveling abroad. Due to the nature of not having any data connection, the entire operation is rendered useless if I am not nearby a WiFi hotspot.

Pros: Fully integrated as part of PSP firmware, no application install required. PSP's large display is great for Skype.
Cons: Lack of integrated Mic (and Camera for profile picture, etc...) WiFi is required all the time for any communications (including text chat)

Winner: Skype for iPhone! With voice call quality being relatively the same, I have to go with iPhone because you just can't beat the convenience of having your iPhone w/ Skype with you at all times. The integrated mic makes the entire package there and ready to go 24/7 [update 4/8: PSP3000 also has integrated mic]. The touchscreen plays well with the UI and it has instantly become one of those default applications I must have on my iPhone.

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