What is skype and how would I benefit from using it?
What is Skype? - Skype is an internet-based telephone service that allows users to make free – or very cheap – calls both nationally and internationally.
How do I get it and how does it work? - Users download the Skype software to their computers and they then use the internet to connect to each other anywhere in the world. It works for voice and video, provided both computers have fast enough connections.
So the person I'm calling needs a computer too? - No, but if both parties are using Skype calls are free. This means they both need to be sat at their computers, with headsets. Although wireless Skype phones are now available which means you can wander around.
And when the person I'm calling doesn't have Skype? - With a pay-monthly or pay-as-you-go tariff, you can use Skype to call computer-to-phone or phone-to-phone as well. International rates are competitive.
How much do I save? - The numbers can be confusing. Four or five one-hour calls to New York from the UK would cost more than £50 a week at standard BT rates, hence Skype's popularity with people who make a lot of international calls. However, if you have a bundled inclusive landlines calls package with BT or Virgin, you will not save much by using Skype for national calls.
Can I use Skype with my iPhone? - Talkers with iPads and iPhones can download Skype apps at no cost, giving unlimited free calls using wi-fi (and 3G, too, depending on the contract). But it is not possible to use video Skype via your iPhone unless you have an iPhone 4 enabled with video.
Does anyone else offer Skype-type services? - Many technology companies offer versions - such as Apple's Face-Time, Google Voice and Fring - but none is as well known or used as Skype. BT also offers web-based telephony via BT Broadband Talk.
Are there any drawbacks? - Connection quality, especially with video, can be disappointing and frustrating.