If you’re testing Windows 10 Mobile for phones, you might want to check out the quietly-released Messaging Skype Beta, a curiously-named app download that integrates Skype into the relevant Windows 10 Mobile experiences.
First, the download link: Messaging Skype Beta for Windows 10 Mobile for phones. (In case it’s not clear, you must be using the Windows 10 Mobile preview. You cannot use this app with Windows Phone OS.)
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You may recall that Microsoft revealed at Build 2015 earlier this year that it would integrate Skype’s messaging functionality into the relevant native apps in Windows 10 Mobile. What this ostensibly means is that you won’t need to start Skype to start communicating with other people. Instead, you can use the normal apps you’d already use—Messaging, for text messaging; Phone, for audio calls—and then switch back and forth between traditional messaging types and Skype. The neat thing here is that you’ll be able to mix and match. So for example, you can turn a phone call into a video call. The phone call occurs with normal phone technology, but the video call uses Skype under the covers.
This functionality was part of the original Windows Phone 7 vision, by the way, and if you remember, the original version of that OS actually did let you use a single app, Messaging, for both SMS/MMS and Windows Live Messenger-based chats. Five years later, and after a few major setbacks—that integrated messaging functionality was quickly killed off—Microsoft is finally taking the next logical step. And in doing so, it is trailing behind both Apple and Google, which already offer similar functionality in iOS and Android, respectively.
Brad Sams tells me that we can expect to see a similar client for Windows 10 for PCs in preview form in the next few weeks. But for now, the few, the proud, the 2.5 percent, can at least experience what this is like on Windows 10 Mobile.
OK, so what is this thing?
As it turns out, the Messaging Skype Beta for Windows 10 Mobile for phones actually downloads and installs two new apps to your phone: Messaging Skype Preview and Skype Video Preview. When you first run the former app, it asks you if you’d like to use this app instead of the native Messaging app, so it clearly works like Hangouts does on Android. That is, rather than extend the native Messaging app with new functionality, you just use this new app for messaging, regardless of the type of messaging. Put another way, the Messaging app in Windows 10 Mobile supports SMS and MMS. But the Messaging Skype Beta app support SMS, MMS and Skype chat.
It’s not particularly seamless, though I hope that changes. For example, you have to step through a lot of introductory and permissions screens, and even need to enter your phone’s number, which you’d think the app could simply find for itself.
But once you run the app, you see what you expect to see: a comingled collection of both SMS/MMS and Skype messages. In fact, it’s kind of hard to tell which is which.
Selecting a contact in the app, I see the Skype and/or text messages we’ve already exchanged. And there are handy Call and Video links, which launch Phone and Skype Video Preview, respectively. This is true of conversations that happened purely over text messaging, too. It really is a “universal” messaging app. (In the sense that text messaging + Skype is “universal.)
Speaking of which, Skype Video Preview is the front-end for Skype video calls. If you launch the app directly, you’ll see a history of only the video calls you’ve had with others. But as noted above, you can always trigger this experience from the “main” app, which I guess is now Messaging Skype Beta, as well.
The Phone app remains in use, and you will see a Skype Video Call button so you can switch from a normal (audio) phone call on the cellular network to a video call over IP. (This wasn’t available to me because I called myself when testing, and the phone number I called is the one I have registered as my Skype number.)
Interesting stuff, and a nice peek at the some of the functionality Microsoft has always planned for after the initial release of Windows 10.