Skype Challenge Update

It’s now the 5th day since I announced my attempts at the Skype Challenge and by all accounts I feel that I’m failing.  That said, I’m going to keep persisting and attempting to reduce my phone dependency.  Here’s a few thoughts on where technology is currently failing:

Acknowledged problems (problems I knew I would encounter in this challenge)

  • Battery Life – My poor Dell Axim struggles to get through a whole day on a fully charged battery.  While I’m in the office it sits on my desk with the wireless off and plugged in but when I go home at night I turn the wireless on (so I’m “online” with Skype) and I set Activesync to poll every 15 mins or so.  Unfortunately by morning the battery has got so low that the wireless has been disabled!

  • Audio Quality – The Dell was never really designed to work as a phone.  Even with noise cancellation the audio is pretty poor quality.  On this respect I can’t wait to get my K-Jam back

  • Unable to Receive SMS – Clearly this was going to be an issue.  One solution to this problem would be for Skype to allow users to specify a mobile SkypeIn number – this could be used for not only incoming voice but also sending/receiving SMS messages

Unanticipated Issues

  • Audio Quality Degradation – When we head out for coffee to our regular haunt, Tiger Tiger, I usually enable the wireless for Skype.  I don’t typically get any calls but once or twice I’ve taken a call on the Dell.  The call is usually not bad, the line is quite fast so there is no delay or degradation of audio.  Unfortunately if someone else is downloading a file or also talking on Skype (or another VOIP app) the audio is unintelligible.  I seemed to recall that this is typically of ADSL style connections that only support up to around 800kbps upstream traffic (despite much larger download bandwidth).

  • Unavailability – I don’t know why I didn’t think of this issue before hand.  One of the reasons that Push Email works over GPRS and not over wireless is the inability for Windows Mobile to maintain an active connection to a wireless network when it is in suspend mode (which it can do over the GPRS network – since it has to do a similar thing to support incoming calls on the mobile network).  Of course this means that Skype (set to Wireless only mode since we are trying not to use the phone provider) is only available when the device is not suspended (ie when I’m using it).  Unless someone happens to call when I’m using the device I’m unlikely to receive the call!!!

  • Unable to Send SMS – Go figure – why did Skype leave this almost trivial functionality out of the Windows Mobile version of their client.  Just about every other function from the desktop is there, just not the ability to send SMS.

  • Contacts Unavailable – On the desktop I’ve become used to Skype automatically including my Outlook contacts in the Skype contacts list.  Unfortunately the mobile client doesn’t do this which makes using SkypeOut to call people a little harder (need to do a bit of copy-n-paste).

I hope this serves as an overview of the issues to date.  If anyone has any clever work arounds, please feel free to contact me.  Better still if you think you can, then take the Skype Challenge!

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