Skype Splash ScreenSource: Joseph Keller/iMore

Chances are you've heard of Skype. What is now Microsoft's video and instant messaging app has been around for over 16 years at this point, and was once the best way to video chat with anyone, and often seen as one of the best ways to connect with new people around the world.

While many other competitors have sprung up, such as Apple's FaceTime or Google's Duo, Skype remains the go-to for video chat for many individuals and businesses.

Here's what it's all about.

What is Skype?

Skype is a video, audio, and text communication app available across multiple platforms. Free to download and use, for the most part, Skype is an excellent tool for keeping in touch with friends or working remotely with colleagues.

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While it started life as an independent company over 16 years ago, today, Skype is owned and developed by Microsoft for both consumer and professional use cases.

The marquee features of Skype, video and audio calls and instant messaging, are all free to use when you download the app. There are paid elements to Skype, such as calling and texting mobile numbers around the world.

What can I do on Skype?

Skype offers several capabilities to customers. Most famously, Skype allows you to make video calls and send instant messages to other Skype users. Skype allows you to video call multiple users at the same time, and record your video calls if needed.

An excellent tool for businesses, Skype allows you to share your screen during a video call. This way, you can do things like show off pictures, go through documents, and more without having to send links or have anyone install other software.

For anyone that needs subtitles, Skype now supports live subtitles for increased accessibility. Just turn on live subtitles, and Skype will drop them onto the video conversation itself so you can keep looking at who you're speaking with instead of at a chat window.

All of these features are available for free, but there are other things you can do if you're willing to pay.

Can I make regular phone calls using Skype?

You can use Skype to call standard mobile and landline phones around the world, for a price. Call from your desktop, smartphone, or any other device on which you can use Skype, and receive calls from your own personal Skype phone number.

To do this, you'll either need to sign up for a subscription or buy enough Skype Credit if your calls are going to be more infrequent.

What is Skype Credit?

Skype Credit is a virtual currency you buy to make calls to landlines and cellphones if you don't want to pay a subscription fee. Available in either $5, $10, or $25 options, you spend Skype Credit whenever you make a call, either to in your home country or internationally.

Rates applied in all countries generally apply in the cents-per-minute range, though some calls can cost as much as $1.74 per minute.

Skype Credit might be the best option for some customers, especially if you only plan to use the phone calling feature on an irregular basis. Additionally, while a subscription offers you a flat monthly rate to make your calls, what that rate will be can get complicated depending on where you want to call.

How much does a subscription cost for making phone calls on Skype?

This is a somewhat complicated answer. Skype offers multiple subscription options depending on where you want to call, letting you save some money if you only want to call a limited area. Additionally, while plans to call one international location tend to cost $6.99 per month (though some cost much more), the number of minutes that you get for that month can vary. Paying that price, for instance, to call Japan gets you 300 minutes, while for China, you get 1,000.

If you're planning to call the United States, you can pay just $2.99 per month to call anywhere in the U.S., including the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico. But, that $2.99 doesn't necessarily cover everything, as after 2,000 minutes, you'll pay an additional rate of 15¢ per minute.

The North American plan lets you call the U.S., Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Canada, and Mexico for $6.99 per month. Of course, you'll get hit with a 35¢ per-minute fee after 2,000 minutes.

If you want to be able to call anywhere in the world, sign up for the $13.99 a month World subscription. You can call 63 countries and territories around the globe with this plan, though you'll have to stick to calling landlines in most of them. You can call landlines and mobile phones in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam, Canada, China, Hong Kong SAR, Singapore, and Thailand.

Does Skype offer end-to-end encryption?

Skype does offer end-to-end encryption, but it isn't standard with all conversations, and it's only for instant messages, not for video or audio calls.

You can elect to start a private conversation with anyone on either desktop or mobile. These chats are end-to-end encrypted for maximum security. Note that you'll need to start a new conversation with someone to encrypt it, rather than encrypting your current conversation.

What devices can I use with Skype?

Skype is available on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Amazon Echo devices, and Xbox.

Where can I get Skype?

For Skype on Windows and macOS, you can grab it directly from the Skype Website.

Get Skype

For iOS and Android users, you'll find it on the App Store on iPhone and iPad and the Google Play Store for Android.

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