In January, Skype announced it would soon roll out free group video calling to users on mobile devices, including iOS and Android. Today, Microsoft has followed through on that promise. The company says that it has now started to introduced group calling on smartphones and tablets in North America and Western Europe, to be followed by the rest of the world in the weeks ahead.
According to a Skype blog post, Microsoft expects group calling to reach all users in the initial two markets within the next week or so. And everyone worldwide will have the feature by March.
This follows the pre-release version’s launch, which Microsoft says tens of thousands tested in order to offer feedback.
Skype’s video calls will be in HD and will be optimized for the device you’re using at the time, Microsoft also notes. Audio for the calls utilizes Microsoft’s SILK Super Wide Band audio codec from its cloud conferencing stack, and was worked on in partnership with Intel who helped to optimize the code for Azure running on Intel processors.
The feature also supports both a grid view to see all the callers as well as a focus view that shows just the active speaker. And you can “pin” a participant to the stage.
The company has been steadily adding features to its mobile platform as well, including video messaging, real-time speech and instant message translation, its own version of emojis plus music emojis (mojis), Slack and Outlook mobile integrations, the ability for anyone to join chats — even if they don’t use Skype — and more. This latter feature is now also supported on mobile, says Microsoft.
The Skype application has managed to hang on to a sizable user base, despite the shift from desktop to mobile in recent years. The company previously said that 750 million now use the app on their mobile devices, making it one of the most popular apps on the iTunes App Store and Google Play.
In addition to the launch of group video calling itself, Microsoft also said that it increased the number of people who can chat on calls from 5 to 25. That will make it ideal for larger work meetings as well as a competitor to social apps like ooVoo, which competes by offering a way to chat with a dozen others at once.
To access group video calling, you’ll need to download the most recent version of Skype for your mobile device.