April 2, 2009

The Hype about Skype on iPhone (and How to Get The Most of It)

If you haven't heard yet, Skype has recently been released on the iPhone!

So what's the big deal? Indeed numerous handsets such as a few Nokias have had it for a while and it has been possible for a while to use Skype on the iPhone itself via a few apps such as Truphone and Fring, which allow you to connect to other instant messaging services as well.

However, the app which I've been trying for most of today definitely deserves to be on the must have app list. You can do pretty much almost anything you can do on Skype from your PC such as chat, add and search for contacts and even make both SkypeOut and free Skype-to-Skype calls (albeit for a few annoying restrictions, which I shall get to talking about a bit later in this post).

The interface is a lot quicker, more responsive, and a lot cleaner than any other app that you can use to connect to Skype with.

Unfortunately, due to Apple guidelines, with the default app, you can only make calls when you are connected to Wifi but you can still sign in, chat and see who's online from regular EDGE/GPRS/3G.

Another annoying nag, is the fact that it is not possible to run apps in the background, which means you HAVE to be on the Skype screen to be able to send and receive messages and calls. Indeed, you have to either know when people are going to skype you or leave it running all the time, which sort of detracts from the whole point of it.

Nevertheless, this tutorial will help you get past MOST of the aforementioned annoyances:

  1. You need a jailbroken phone for this. So there's no point continuing if your phone isn't jailbroken yet! Infact this is probably a great reason to jailbreak if you haven't done so already!

  2. Install Skype from the Appstore or download the IPA from elsewhere.
  3. Install MobileSubstrate from Cydia. Please note, existing MobileSubstrate users require an update to 0.9.2805-1 which was released today. For more information on the compatibility issues, read this.
  4. Install VoIPover3G from Cydia - this tricks any app that is configured into thinking that it is using WiFi when in fact it is using 3G/EDGE/GPRS and therefore overcome the need of a WiFi connection to make calls!
  5. Edit this file either via Terminal or SSH (easier and preferred method): "VoIPover3G.plist" located in /Library/MobileSubstrate/DynamicLibraries/ Add the following string to configure Skype "skype.com.skype" (NB all should be in lowercase. You will probably have to add a comma to separate the previous entry - just follow the layout)
  6. Install Backgrounder from Cydia. Configure the app to have Skype as an Auto-Enabled Application. This will basically keep Skype running in the background when you hit the Home button, not unlike Skype being minimised to your System Tray! You will also hear your phone ring if someone skypes you - highly recommended!
  7. If you have IntelliScreen installed, under Performance - Select App Launch Boost and make sure VoIPover3G and Backgrounder are "On"
  8. Sign in and enjoy an always-on solution for Skype that you can make and receive calls from no matter what connection you have! (NB: Data charges might apply!)

I've made and received a few test calls for a noticeable length (>20 mins) and the call quality is nothing short of amazing on 3G, with a quite unnoticeable lag! As at this moment, you can't make a conference call from the app, but you can definitely take part in one, if someone else initiates it. This has been tested as well, with great results on 3G!