Why I'm rage-quitting Skype for iPhone and considering doing the same on the Mac!

Why I'm rage-quitting Skype for iPhone (and considering doing the same on Mac!)

Stop me if you've been driven mad by this before — you launch Skype on an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or some other device you haven't launched it on in a while, and for the next few minutes, if not hours, you're pummeled by notifications going off for messages you've long since seen and conversations you've long since forgotten. Today I opened Skype on my MacBook Air for the first time in 3 or 4 days, and the beeps and bounces went on for over an hour, and now, almost 8 hours later, another batch just popped up. It's even worse on iOS. I haven't launched Skype on my iPhone for long enough that I'm afraid to ever launch it again. That's not only shameful for a company as big as Microsoft and a product as important as Skype, it's inexcusable. And it's only one of many problems...

We use Skype as our primary communications system here at Mobile Nations — no, we can't switch to Hangouts because it's not cross-platform — and that means we have a lot of people we contact frequently, and a lot of semi-permanent group calls and messages we send. Favorite them just perfectly on one machine and know what you get? Absolutely nothing on any other machine. Message sync might be broken, but at least it exists. Not so Favorites sync.

It's not just sync that's silly about Skype either, it's basic interface. I co-host a podcast called Iterate. On the show we interview some of the best app designers in the business, and you know what? Almost none of them can find the do-not-disturb toggle on the Skype interface when we ask them to turn it on. These people create interface for a living, and many have used Skype for years, and that basic bit of functionality is rendered opaque even to them. (It's so frustrating we've actually made a mini-game out of it — stump the designer!)

That's after we have to explain to most guests that Skype has its own audio input selector in Preferences, distinct from the OS-level one in System preferences, and they have to select their mic in both for it not to pick up their built-in instead and ruin the show with fan noise. While I'm sure there are use-cases for alternate audio settings, they're not mainstream ones.

Then there's the problem with different devices showing different availability states. And what's worse — wait for it! — availability sync is broken as well. If you do somehow manage to find the do-no-disturb selector and enable it, another device can wake up, connect, and revert it to "online" mode, so notification noises you wanted to avoid end up ruining your recording anyway.

Same for contact requests and even calls coming in — they show up on one device but not the one you're actually using at the time.

Every day, every show, it's inevitable that someone will wonder out loud how Skype can still have so many issues. We still use it because, annoying as it is, other solutions are just-as if not more annoying. But that doesn't make it okay.

When I started searching for ways to work around some of the problems, I found this, from July of 2013, on the Skype Community:

We have identified some shortcomings in multi-device usage like the ones you described and already started working on addressing these. As you probably understand this requires all involved Skype clients to be updated to work together so it might take a while until you will see the improved experience on your end. But rest assured we are already on it.

It's great that they're working on it, but if it took Skype until July of 2013 simply to realize we now live in a multi-device world, that's decidedly not great. That it's now February 2014 and that too-long-in-coming revelation still hasn't led to any tangible improvements is terrible.

When an app enabled more pain than productivity, when you start to question if it's really worth using it at all anymore, that's a problem. And right now, that's Skype's problem.

Is it just me? Is it a podcaster thing? Is it my desire to impose my expectations upon others? Or am I right — is Skype simply failing to adapt to the multi-device age, and failing to provide the level of service modern users deserve?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 72 comments. Add yours.

steviet02 says:

With their latest 'update' I don't get notifications when someone is calling. Crappy app that has gotten worse and worse over the years. Still can't make a conference call in it either.

Rene Ritchie says:

And, 10 hours later, another conversation just popped up. Sigh.

Daniel0418 says:

Can you be more specific on "Hangouts is not cross platform". http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/

It works on Mac OS, iOS, Android, Linux, Chrome OS, and Windows. What other OS's are you having a hard time getting on hangouts?

designingsean says:

From my experience, Hangout sucks. I work remotely with a team of three other people, and one person with a relatively new MacBook Air constantly has issues with getting his camera working with it. Plus there is its annoying habit of deciding when to mute or unmute you, which wouldn't be so bad if there was a way to switch it back without being focused in the Hangout window.

In fact, we have gotten so fed up with Hangouts that we are moving TO Skype. One person is going to get a premium account, which will allow us to duplicate most of what we use Hangouts for.

yieldway17 says:

Well, Windows Phone and Blackberry doesn't have support. :)

Daniel0418 says:

Well to be fair, no company should spend a second developing for Blackberry. And Microsoft doesn't even support Windows Phone. 18 months it has been since it has seen a major update, and it was already in last place. Microsoft isn't doing itself any favors with that OS.

The Jimmy James says:

In the last year, my Lumia 800 has received no less than three relatively large updates. We aren't talking "reinvent the wheel" releases like iOS 7 or whatever the version of Android Kit Kat is (4.4?) But the good, strong "clear progress" releases like iOS 5.

I started with the original release of WP8. It was identical to 7 practically. Now, though, it's gained features that put it on equal footing with Apple and those other guys.

That said, I got the thing because I didn't like how the metal iPhone feels in my hand. The polycarbonate Lumia feels more like the comfortable 3GS, and nothing like the hard edges of the 4-5S. Now that the 5C is out, I hope to slide over to it. I like Nokia's hardware and MS' software and will recommend it over any Android phone...

... But I can't run GarageBand on WP8.

Rene Ritchie says:

I hate that it's not wicked obvious, because it shows just how much attention iOS and Android suck out of this space: Hangouts aren't available on Windows Phone or BlackBerry, which is 2/5 of our staff. Likewise, there are no native clients of Mac or Windows, and web apps just aren't good enough.

Phil Nickinson says:

Agree that the Chrome extension for Hangouts is severely lacking. I'd pay good money for a proper native app for OSX.

Rene Ritchie says:

In theory I wouldn't mind a great web app, I've just not seen one that can do what a native client can do, especially for one that's as important to me as communications.

Daniel0418 says:

2/5 of your staff, where you have enthusiests sure. But it is certainly not 2/5 of most company staffs. Blackberry had it's time in the sun, they didn't accept the changes in the phone space. Once they did, it was too late. Microsoft came late, but still had a shot. But, they just don't seem to know what they are doing. If it wasn't for Nokia, Microsoft would have even less market share. Nokia is why anyone cares about Windows Phone. The update cycle has been way too slow for an OS that is playing catch up. So I personally don't hate that it isn't obvious, because it isn't anymore. I do also question, if WPCentral and Crackberry writers weren't writing for those sites, would they still be using those OS's? Dieter sure isn't using WebOS or Palm OS anymore.

I don't understand why web apps aren't "good enough". I know you are a busy guy and probably shouldn't not respond to this, but I am curious about the blanket statement. That specific web app isn't good enough, all web apps, and why? There are a ton of really nice, robust, and reliable web apps out there. <---- Disregard this I suppose. I just read your comment about Web apps. Though, I do still think there are perfectly fine Web Apps out there.

Cristian_Dan says:

But hangouts for iOS it's even crappier. Just look at the ratings. I'd better use skype on me iPhone than hangouts.

YourMobileGuru says:

And you choose to publish this rant on the very day Microsoft the makers of Skype announce their new CEO. Clickbait much?

Many good points here but the timing is very suspect.

Posted via the Android iMore App!

Kevin Michaluk says:

Don't you mean the timing is awesome?! That's when you should post it. When everybody is talking about it and cares about it.

Rene Ritchie says:

I also faked a moon landing in Northern Quebec (it's indistinguishable!).

The Jimmy James says:

I knew you guys up there were in on it!

:: dons foil hat ::

Now to find a Mexican who'll admit to being involved in Roswell...

crwoo says:

convince all the mobile nations sites to switch to facetime compatible devices. :) problem solved plus they all have better devices. lol

Rene Ritchie says:

FaceTime has it's own problems. Blogged about those on Saturday.

kenzuk says:

Have you tried VSee? I like it, but people are so entrenched with Skype that I know I will never get people to change over to something different.

jkeitz says:

As much as I'd love to see FaceTime on my Windows PCs, the fact that you cannot use FaceTime on non-Apple products isn't a "problem" like a messed up interface, malfunctions, and the other issues with Skype. That's like saying iOS7 has "its own problems" because you cannot install it on a Samsung handset.

Cheapsilverware says:

My 3 day old iPhone 5s refuses to open the app. Bummer.

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YourMobileGuru says:

Daniel0418 (for some reason the app isn't allowing me to directly reply to your post). He means it does not work on Blackberry 10 and Windows Phone which a lot of Mobile Nations people use as primary or secondary devices

Posted via the Android iMore App!

phrequency86 says:

They need to find a better way for notifications when first signing in. I would like to find something that uses Opus and allows me to transfer active calls from device to device. Unfortunately, Skype is the most accessible for use with a screen reader.

brunetmj says:

Rene how about a service like Citrix go to meeting. Cisco product.

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Rene Ritchie says:

Can't do it. Too much trauma from using it when I worked in Enterprise a decade ago :p

teepeeayy says:

Well, the Cisco product is called WebEx. Its a conferencing product that brings cross-platform video from Telepresence to PCs to camera-enabled desk phones to tablets to smart phones together. I attended a video call this morning using my wifi only iPad, for both video and audio. Some were on speaker phones from their desks, others on cell phones. If its been a decade since you've looked at conferencing systems, that's a long time for any technology.

alsaydali says:

Seriously. and no joke, i deleted skype, hangouts and all video communications apps and i just use facetime, i know you may need it for your business or conferences. They all sucks and giving hard time! I use to had same problems before with skype, just wish they stayed stand alone company without Microsoft.

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Rene Ritchie says:

Maybe they need to re-write the whole thing in .Net!

Antrikshy says:

I would do that if I could.

dblevins says:

Do not confuse effort, with results.

akdj says:

LoL....don't use THAT in your next interview! A degree in philosophy and/or common sense isn't necessarily the most intelligent way to approach this article OR using said honed craft to 'get a Job;)' --- Rene's right. Skype is hurtin. And it doesn't 'seem' like it should be. Pretty simple VO/IP....a phone number unique to you and your email. Doesn't matter which device (or OS) you're using....as soon as you install and launch on the newest device, a settings panel presented and those extremely 'simple' bugs squashed! "Come on MAN!" As Cris Carter and the MNF crew says....that letter was written six months ago, 30 months post original iPad (and it's rocket fueled rise----Androids' offerings in the tablet arena since...). Seven years this year since iPhone '1'. And six 'real' years of success (monstrous when worldwide sales are taken into acct and lower proved options, most still with a front motion/still cam) for Android. BB10. It's MS for cryin' out loud! How's it working on the Win Lumias? I just don't 'think' Ballmer 'got' much of anything. PERHAPS you're right dblevins....maybe we should recognize the over the top 'effort' Ballmer has put into Windows...just a decade ago, the world's 'Sky-Net' is today a broken, shattered remnant of its former self (we still run XP on our six radio station server, source and aggregator (commercials/music) due to its rock hard stability and the issues we've had trying Vista, 7 even 8.1---- as no one likes to come in @ 3am and 'reboot'!
It's not just Skype. Challenges with XBox1. Serious challenges defining 'Surface'. Most hard core Window's users area still using '7' and HP is no offering the 'last' MS OS on their high end enterprise and professional systems. Then, there's Window's phone division. Ouch. Can't separate just with a decent camera. You've GOT to have the development community behind ya. It makes you wonder about MS and if they're into too many projects with mixed priorities. IMHO, Skype and their desk/laptop OS need to be right up there, priority-wise. Not the effort. 'The Results'.

sting7k says:

Notification assault happens every time I turn on one of my phones if it has been off for a few days. Just about every app has this notification problem.

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asuperstarr says:

Wow! You are having so serious problems. I haven't used Skype in awhile. I hope things work out for you and you should express your concern if you use the service and you are unhappy. I believe expressing your opinion can help improve the service for others. As long as you share it with the developer.

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Spaz888 says:

Rene, I suggest Viber or Line. They're cross platform...well, maybe not Blackberry. I am not sure there.

unstoppablekem says:

They can sideload Android apps. :)

Rene Ritchie says:

We've tested a lot of stuff, and for podcasting especially, Skype is the least sucky on audio :-/

unstoppablekem says:

I'm a Microsoft guy, but I admit Skype is a mess on pretty much everywhere. iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Windows 8, Windows Desktop app, Mac app, etc. It really needs a LOT of work.

digivish says:

Skype works very differently than FaceTime and Hangouts. The latter are centralized services and therefore easier to sync and stay up to date across devices.

Skype is a P2P system which is obviously not centralized. A mesh of peer nodes deliver voice and text and that takes a lot of re-engineering to deliver near current sync status across devices.

It will get there. Just a matter if time.

Rene Ritchie says:

They're centralized enough to hit me up for paid upgrades for group video calling, and handle other account matters in near real time. Drop sync on that end of the service :p

Phil Nickinson says:

The question I ask is this: Which communications platform is best positioned to not suck? Which one actually can (and has) gotten better over time? Skype? Hangouts? BBM? Facetime?

Sam Sabri says:

It's a good thing that Skype is currently undergoing changes at the foundation. The platform is being reworked for the modern and mobile web. They're working on sync right now! 

Rene Ritchie says:

Better late then never, of course, but it just takes them so damn long. I lose confidence that they a) see changes coming, and b) can adapt quickly to those changes.

The cross-platform comms battle was theirs to lose. All they had to do was be more stable and responsive, yet time after time they're shocked at their own shortcomings.

Fresh eyes needed?

Metro1088 says:

Skype on iPhone is truly unreliable. But when your parents don't have a smartphone the only way to communicate with then is via Skype on their Windows laptop. I tried Hangouts on my Nexus 4 but I couldn't turn OFF the camera unless I restarted the phone!

Skype needs to go. But I haven't found a better alternative that does mobile - desktop video conference.

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MacAir says:

I think that microsoft should be ashamed of themselves. They used to be a great software company, 20 years ago.

Today, especially on mobile, all of their products are sub par (compared to Apple and Google). We all knew that Skype was doomed the moment Microsoft shed 8.5B$ for it.

csd says:

WebEx. We use it for every remote meeting with 10 people at a time on various devices and never have issues.

csd says:

And it's available on iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Windows OS, MacOS, and Chrome OS.

Gazoobee says:

And it's proprietary Cisco bullshit that's no better or worse than a dozen other web-based meeting solutions.

teepeeayy says:

Facetime is proprietary Apple. I don't get your point. If cross-functionality is the goal, whats wrong with web-based meeting solutions?

CameronBrewster says:

So glad that I'm not alone with my gripes about Skype. The other day I got back from work and my iPhone signed me in (on its own) and reverted my status back to Away instead of Invisible. I then got Skype calls and notifications from friends who wanted a chat but I was in no position to.

I always have to check that I'm Invisible on every single device now. iPhone, iPad, PC and Mac just so I don't get any nasty surprises. Sort it out Microsoft!

The Jimmy James says:

My problem is IM. I don't use much video conference really. My folks are Apple users like me, and I FaceTime with them, so that's all I need.

My concern is that I also keep in touch with a lot of old friends via IM. One lives in the boonies and has no cell phone, so I can't use SMS. One never responds to texts, but reads her email and IMs on her PC religiously. One just likes to sit at his keyboard while playing guitar and chat at his own pace. My girlfriend uses IM during role playing games to bring a disabled player into the group (Skype works great there. Since he can connect with video to interact with the group, but also have the IM window for numbers and stuff.)

The only thing that works for everybody these days is Skype! Yahoo stopped working on their Messenger. iOS hasn't seen an update since 2012. I'm certain there will never be one for Windows Metro or Windows Phone. Same for BlackBerry X. Skype, though, runs on everything! And it runs the very same way.


threejay68 says:

Why not use WeChat or Viber? These are probably the most cross-platform communications tools currently available, and both work marvellously for me.

Spartacuswines says:

Let's face it, did you expect something else from MSFT? I use Viber, and it does have a glitch or two. But it's a joy to use.

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Felix Vargas says:

I've just read about Appear.in http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/move-google-plus-hangouts-appear-really-good/ it looks good, "unfortunately" just works in browsers with WebRTC, so we have to wait for mobile use.

ctt1wbw says:

I've never even used it, never even typed the word in a url bar before. I might be the only one living who hasn't ever used it.

tobias_i_d says:

Either viber or line is better alternative

jkeitz says:

Frankly, my biggest complaint about Skype is its inconsistency. I really only use it once a week when my son takes his drum lesson (his teacher lives 60 miles away in Reno). Every second or third week, we spend the first ten minutes calling, disconnecting, calling, disconnecting, etc until we both can hear each other. Neither of us are changing any settings, and we only use Skype once a week, yet it seems that each time we call, someone's mic has been turned off at random. This type of thing never happens with Facetime, so I use Facetime for all other video conversations.

weberm13 says:

Hangouts is the best. And if you're going to continue waiting for a cross-platform solution, that comes from a major company that can support it, you'll be waiting a long time. Developers just don't support Blackberry any more, and WP doesn't have the developer support yet either (and may never get it). Hangouts has its problems, but it is 100 times better than Skype.

You may check out ooVoo. IDK if it is on those other platforms either, but people seem to like it.

Gazoobee says:

I love the "rage quitting" term.
I also rage-quit Skype last year for most of the same reasons.

You have no reason to believe me but I actually know some of the high up executives at Skype and from what I've heard the whole company has basically been on cruise control since the Microsoft acquisition. It's all about not getting cutback and who has the best office at this point.

Since I have to support it all day at work, I truly loathe Skype and can't for the life of me understand why it has caught on and is so popular when there are so many other more worthy options (including dirt cheap hardware based videoconferencing solutions).

weberm13 says:

Also, I think it does specifically hate podcasters. We used it for ours for a while and had nothing but problems. We use hangouts now.

SockRolid says:

Had the same sync problems with Skype, and even replied to a message that was sent about 12 hours earlier. Oops. And I don't particularly like any of the sound effects. The start-up "swoop" sound is awful.

Two possible technical solutions:

1. Sync messages in the background while the user isn't using the app.
Not possible when the Mac / PC / mobile device is turned off or sleeping or whatever.
Mavericks may have some kind of background app update feature for newer Macs.
But is that a true cross-platform solution?

2. Sync the most recent messages first, each time the user launches the app.
Then continue syncing messages in the background, as it does now, but in
reverse chronological order. That way users get up-to-date immediately.
If they scroll too far back in time, they'll hit an "updating" indicator.
Should be easy to do.

Carioca32 says:

Wow, you guys must be very popular, because I don't have any of those massive notification problems with Skype.

Seriously Rene, I think that in your specific case, Skype was designed for home/personal use, and you have transcended into almost industrial use. Not that your gripe isn't justified, but Skype was never designed to be a massive business/social hub.

The criticism of Microsoft is also unfair, since the app was exactly like that before the company was acquired and I feel Microsoft is trying not to fix what was not broken.

SR_Penny says:

I did the same a number of weeks ago. Skype was a staple app on my Mac and iPhone as my son was growing up in another country, but it became worse and worse. As the already leading player in it;s market, you would think it would strive to improve itself, but it never did. Then with the Microsoft purchase, again, you'd think some serious money would be spent to make it the go-to video/audio calling app - but NOTHING seems to have improved or progressed.

As per Rene's post, over the last year or so I've used it less and less, and now I just log in occasionally. But when I do, I'm bombarded with notifications of messages that never got to me, or things I;ve already seen previously...... and then my background running Mac app (if it hadn't frozen at some random point) would then freak out with all the same stuff.

I now live in the same country as my son, so my only need for video/audio calls abroad is back home to my family and close friends - all of whom have iPhones. Sufficed to say, Skype was closed and removed from my Mac, and deleted from my iPhone ......... and I haven't missed it once yet!!

Fishfam4 says:

Well, it's Windows. Don't expect much.

nekton123 says:

I took it off my Mac Pro and MacBook last week after continued file system errors in Mavericks for the last 2 months and Console troubleshooting led me to believe the culprit is Skype—no file system errors since removing it. I now only have it (reluctantly) on iOS because I have some family overseas and they use Skype. I use FaceTime for everyone I know with a Mac.

cgs101 says:

Availability sync is definitely broken when using multiple devices.

My current gripe with Skype is their Skype number feature (I use Skype mainly to call numbers, not skype users). Although you pay good money to have calls in, you can't use the same number to make calls.

Jessica Pak Barajas says:

How come skype doesn't work well on my iPhone 4S

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aliasgar_babat says:

Yeah, I faced similar issues with Skype MAC app.But I discovered another very good alternative: RHUB`s web conferencing servers for conducting online meetings. It works well.

Matthew Vaughan says:

I couldn't agree more. I've used Skype on Mac, PC, iPhone, and Android, and it's horrible on all of them. It's surprising that it still ends up being my primary video conferencing platform and one of the main ways I message people... And its progress is nil, in fact it constantly seems to get worse, it still crashes right and left on Mac (send or receive a file? automatic crash. try to access preferences? automatic crash... etc.), it's slow as heck on Android, its interface is getting worse and options/functions disappearing like crazy on mobile, to the point of unusability, it's handling of messages, especially multi-device and with people who have gone offline, is atrocious (which was excusable when it truly was just peer-to-peer, but now that they centrally record everything for the NSA, it's inexcusable).

Hans Vanvuuren says:

All my contacts in Skype have gone in the Iphone Skype 5
In the computer all contacts are still in and working

Anonymousnamefreedom says:

In My Humble Opinion,
Skype once was awesome,
But then M$ bought it and has since ruined it,
To get over the disappointments and pathetic service that Skype supplies I now use ICQ on my iPhone 4s and Android (Linux) phone and I no longer miss out on messages etc between Windows PC, Linux PC, iPhone and Android devices,
Not sure about Blackberry as I thought they were obsolete years ago. And that Joke called the Windows Phone.. I threw my Nokia Lumia at a brick wall as it wasn't compatible with anything.
Google is a no go, as I am over their invasion and forcing the end user to use all of their products so till they are unlocked from each other I am boycotting most things from Google.

ICQ has made me more than happy with messaging between Computer and Mobile Devices