Could somebody please explain Skype to me?
April 24, 2017 6:28 PM   Subscribe

I need help understand the account types, charges and payment plans.

I'm being put in a situation for business where I'm being required to participate in a Skype video call. Just great.

Now, I don't have a Skype account. I don't really want a Skype account. I really have no interest in paying for another phone-type service.

I've been hunting around on the Skype pages looking for some basic answers, and so far I really haven't found anything that's of use. What I really want to know is what is the bare minimum account I can set up so I can receive a call? And what will it cost me?

From what I can tell, charges should only be applied to the person placing the call, not the person receiving the call, is that correct? If that's the case, and I'm only using the account for this one-time event, do I even need to pay anything to set it up? It looks like the Skype Credit/Pay-As-You Go account option is the one I want, is that correct? Or would I be better signing up for the Unlimited World special offer (one month free, providing I cancel before 27 days are up)?

If it makes a difference, I'm located in Canada. The person calling me is supposed to also be in Canada, but the request (for whatever reason) has a local time (for me) and a time from Manila as well (so I don't know if somebody else will be conferencing in or what).
posted by sardonyx to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You said "video call". Are you sure? Because Skype is free.

You do have to pay to use Skype to call a landline or cell phone, but that doesn't involve video.
posted by Automocar at 6:33 PM on April 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

It's absolutely a video chat. Because I offered to call up the other person over a regular phone line and was told that wouldn't suffice as it needed to be video. (Even though I hate the idea.)

Do I have to pay to establish an account? Is there some sort of starter fee?
posted by sardonyx at 6:38 PM on April 24, 2017

Skype is completely free.
posted by Automocar at 6:44 PM on April 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

Skype is free. You pay to get fancy add-ons, like big conference calls, calling landlines, etc.

But one-to-one video calling is free.
posted by MythMaker at 6:44 PM on April 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Video calls like you describe are free. They have premium services, such as calls to/from ordinary telephone numbers, but video calls from one Skype user to another are free. Just download the app, register for an account, and place a call to the Skype username for your contact. Or give them your username and they'll call you.

If this is a super-important business call, you might want to do a test call with a friend ahead of time to make sure you have all the technical details ironed out (webcam and microphone working properly, nothing crazy going on in the background, etc...) and to give you peace of mind for how it will work when you do it for real. You can also just go into the Skype preferences and confirm your webcam and microphone are working that way.
posted by zachlipton at 6:49 PM on April 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Okay, free is good to hear.

Next question (I guess I should have included it up top): when you set up an account does it give you a way to perform a test call to see if everything is working? (And to see how bad the room looks and how really bad I look in the room).

Nobody I interact with on a regular basis uses Skype (at least that I'm aware of) so I don't really have a friend I can phone to test the setup before the business call.
posted by sardonyx at 6:51 PM on April 24, 2017

You can't test video calls without calling an actual user as far as I know but there is a sound call test; when you log in you should have a contact called something like Echo / Sound Test Service. You call, record a 10 second message, then it plays it back so you can judge sound quality.

I'm rarely on Skype, but if you are stuck you can PM me and I'd be happy to set up a quick video test call (assuming it's at a reasonable hour of the evening on Eastern Time).
posted by Wretch729 at 6:57 PM on April 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

The Skype audio/video preference pane will show you what the webcam sees and gives you an audio monitor, so you can see it that way, but it's not exactly the same as a test.

It's possible to make an audio test call, where you record a little message and it plays it back for you, but not a video one.

That said, Skype has hundreds of millions of users. Even if nobody you interact with uses it regularly, chances are good that somebody you know has used it at least once and could do a 30 second video call with you.
posted by zachlipton at 6:58 PM on April 24, 2017

I'm also happy to act as a test lab rat. Shoot me a memail.
posted by quaking fajita at 7:24 PM on April 24, 2017

A big thanks to everybody here for the answers. They're all best answer as far as I'm concerned.

Once I get an account set up, I'll definitely get in touch with you quaking fajita and Wretch. I really appreciate your offers!
posted by sardonyx at 7:37 PM on April 24, 2017

But one-to-one video calling is free.

I just want to highlight this since you say in the OP "I don't know if somebody else will be conferencing in or what"—in years past when I did a three-way call with free Skype accounts, it had to be audio-only.
posted by XMLicious at 8:00 PM on April 24, 2017

There is some good information upthread.
Feel free to contact me if you want to test your settings.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:09 PM on April 24, 2017

Conference calls up to 25 people are supposed to be free (I believe that wasn't always the case). More than that is only available as a business thing with an Office subscription.
posted by zachlipton at 8:17 PM on April 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I video conference three-way regularly - on cellphones even! and it usually works fine. On a laptop is way easier, as on a phone, depending on platforms, someone sometimes gets switched to audio only. But having 3+ video heads on a screen in Skype is easy. With a cellphone, Skype will switch to whoever is currently speaking the most with the other people reduced to postage stamps or hidden. I don't know how it does it, but it works out fine.

Tip - check your background is simple like a plain wall, and mute yourself when you're not talking so your noise level doesn't overpower. I use standard headphones with an ordinary built-in microphone, nothing bought special for my calls. Bluetooth headphones tend to introduce a delay.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 10:28 PM on April 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Video aliasing can make striped shirts look weird, FYI. Also there might be a longer sound delay than you are used to; it takes some getting used to. Patience is very useful.

Also useful is having an alternate means of contact in case of technical trouble-- text, email they check constantly, regular phone.
posted by nat at 1:25 AM on April 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

It depends on where you live. I'm Canadian, so calls to the USA aren't free for me. I pay ~$30CAD for unlimited USA/Canada/Mexico calling via Skype. I even get to tie my cell # into the service, so my # comes up on call display for my parents when I try to contact them.
posted by GiveUpNed at 7:25 AM on April 25, 2017

Video calls between multiple people running the Skype app on their computers or phones is free. I use it all the time for meetings of 3-6 people.
posted by quaking fajita at 9:55 AM on April 25, 2017

Nthing that video conference calls via Skype are free; it used to be a premium feature, but Google Hangouts and various other (free) group video services forced them to make it free to stay competitive. Skype Premium is mostly about providing VOIP calls to and from real phone numbers these days.
posted by Aleyn at 10:52 PM on April 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I just want to give public thanks to quaking fajita who was patience with me and helped me through the initial test run. I really appreciate it.
posted by sardonyx at 1:53 PM on April 26, 2017

Oh, I want to add one more thing in case somebody with a similar set of questions is looking at this in the future.

Originally, I didn't bother to download the Skype software. I thought I'd just run my call through the Skype Online application. That, however, proved to be impossible to do. I've got Firefox and Opera and IE on my system. The application, apparently doesn't work with FF. It recommended Chrome or Edge. Since I didn't want to fiddle around trying to get it to cooperate with Opera or IE, I just gave up and downloaded it.

Now there may be a plug-in or some other workaround to make it work with different browsers, but I didn't want to invest the time and energy to find out.
posted by sardonyx at 10:53 AM on April 30, 2017

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