Skype releases new beta, 2.5 – and now you can send SMS! But US users – be careful!

My Internet colleague Peter Kalmstrom from Skype told me today about the new Skype beta – 2.5. It has some pretty cool features. I think you could also try it (regardless that it’s a proprietary software, which is a bug, not a feature!)Here are some of the key features (among them: text messages (SMS), outlook contacts import, etc.):

(updated May 10th!)

One can send SMS (text messages in US English) to GSM phones from his or her Skype account. What’s even more cool – you can register your mobile phone with Skype, and the text messages will look as if sent from your own GSM*!

The price of the message varies according to the destination country. The exact rate is displayed when composing the message. You can see the rates at this page. They are OK.

The other cool thing is the view of contacts from your Outlook (and yes, yes, I know all about the Outlook… but the point is that the mobile phone operators use software that synchronizes well with Outlook only… And HTC, which phones I use, make them only under proprietary software, too). Why is this good? Now anyone you wanna call, will be in your contact list – in the group of Outlook contacts. That’s good also for sending SMS – all contacts are in your skype.

I think Skype is going the right way. And it’s only a months away before it introduces a gsm-like phone, with good battery life, which will automatically scan for wi-fi, or may be make possible to sign in to any commercial wi-fi (e.g. T-Mobile, Orange, etc. hot-spots) networks, and work as a cordless, or wireless phone. It can make a beep everytiime it’s working, and it can get you your SkypeIn phone at your pocket, really.

Of course, that is, if Google doesn’t do it before them. Which they could. And probably should?

You can read more about the 2.5 beta at the develpores web page. And you can download it here.

______
* – IMPORTANT FOLLOW-UP NOTE:
However, this feature is a bug in the USA (and may be in other countries, too…)!

I sent a text (SMS) message via Skype to an US GSM number. The message was delivered to the US GSM phone, but not with the number of the sender I registered. That is, I registered my mobile +359-898-etc. with Skype, and texted – via Skype one US mobile phone. The US mobile got the message, but as a sender it came not from +359-898-etc., but from a GSM phone number in.. India (+919855-etc).
When the owner of the US phone texted back, he got a message, written obviously in India, which was saying (exact quote!):
Your message wont be forwarded, as your
friend sent it from Skype. If you were on Skype
you could talk for free. To stop receiving texts,
reply with STOP.

That means Skype doesn’t have a gateway in the USA, and forwards the mails via India. I guess that’s called outsoursing, but in this case it sucks, guys from Skype! And it costs money, too, besides embarassment.

This is really, really quite strange. So, one can not be sure that Skype SMS service works in every country. I checked it with Bulgaria – there it works fine. A text message, sent by Skype, to a Bulgarian GSM phone, translates properly and puts as sender the number, registered with Skype.

I wonder why they didn’t do that with the US mobile operators…

And here’s the response from Skype (by Simon Hyde):

Tens of thousands of SMS messages have been sent through the new Skype for Windows 2.5 BETA. But there have been some minor teething problems.After reading comments on the SMS forum I thought it would be useful to give some background on how the system works and the kinds of issues you can expect to come across… Here’s how SMS works…

After you type in your message and click send, Skype sends the message to one of several aggregators.
An aggregator is a company that routes messages to one or more local mobile operators or (more often the case) other aggregators who are responsible for finding the most reliable route to the handset.
So if you’re sending an SMS from the US to someone on a Vodafone mobile in the UK, that message may pass through several aggregator networks before arriving on Vodafone’s doorstep (called the SMSC or Short Message Service Centre). This happens in much the same way packets of data travel over the Internet and assemble as an email at your ISP’s or employer’s email server.
The local operator (in this example, Vodafone) is then responsible for delivering the message from the SMSC to the mobile handset. If the handset is switched off, or out of range then the message sits in the SMSC until Vodafone can deliver it – in the same way an email will sit on your email server until you download.
After the message is sent to an aggregator, Skype has no control over it. So the message will appear Pending (on Skype) until we receive a delivery notification – either that the message has been delivered successfully or not. There can be a short delay between when the message appears on the handset, and when we receive a delivery notification.
Not all mobile operators send a confirmation when the message appears on the handset. In some countries, and on some networks, we can only report a message as Sent when it hits the operator’s SMSC (and trust the operator to deliver to the handset). In some countries where we know to expect confirmation of delivery to the handset that is what we wait for. This is how traditional mobile operators work; eg in the example above if you sent the message from your US mobile, it would most likely be treated as sent and billed when it hits the SMSC in the UK.

Where can it go wrong?
If the local mobile operator fails to deliver to the handset, or (more often the case) the handset does not confirm receipt the message will stay pending. We have no way of checking this and rely on our BETA testers to report any cases to support. This is the same service available to traditional mobile operators.
If there is a delay, failed delivery (to a valid number), if the message is corrupted or sent twice then this is a failing of our aggregator partner, their partners or the local mobile operator. Somewhere along the network the message has gone astray. By the time of public release our goal is to deliver messages with the speed and quality of a traditional mobile operator but at a fraction of the cost. Unfortunately when it comes to transmitting the message in many countries you get what you pay for so there is a trade-off required.
Failures can be caused by network congestion, mobile operators failing to deliver to the handset and incorrect numbers which are not picked up immediately.

How can we control quality?
In theory, one or more of our aggregator partners can deliver to each country listed on the website.
In practise, some routes will work better than others. Once we know where the message is going, we will pass the message to the aggregator who has
* the highest success rate,
* the quickest response time for delivery notifications, and
* cheapest rates

for that destination (in that order of priority).

Even though collectively our aggregator partners carry a huge share of the international SMS traffic worldwide there are literally dozens of routes into a country and networks can be subtly different. With failure rates statistically quite small, we need to collect plenty of data in BETA in order to optimize and deliver the best possible guarantee of service at the lowest price worldwide.

How can I help?
Submit a support request through http://support.skype.com/
The Subject should be SMS and it should be sent to the “Technical Problems” Department.
The more detail you provide the better. If possible please include:
* the mobile number you tried to send to
* what network it was one (ie the local mobile operator)
* time/date sent
* time/date received at handset (if applicable)
* time/date reported as sent/failed/pending on Skype
* whether the mobile was roaming; ie in another country
* whether the number had been ported from another operator and if so, when
* whether you successfully re-sent the message

You can also share your experiences with other users and Skype staff on the SMS discussion forum: http://forum.skype.com/viewforum.php?f=42

Sender ID
In all countries except the US, Taiwan and China, the SenderID function works as follows:
* The default is that the sender will appear as your Skype username
* If the receiver tries to reply they will see an error message saying something like “invalid number” (actual text may vary from handset to handset)
* If you set your SenderID (Tools -> Options -> SMS Messages) to your personal mobile, replies will be sent to that mobile.

In the US the SenderID will be overridden by the local network. This is a regulatory requirement unique to the US, because you need to be able to reply with the word ???STOP’ to block future texts. This number will vary from network to network and will usually be a local number. In future releases we intend to standardize this number to avoid confusion and also to allow for you to be able to reply to the Skype user.
In Taiwan and China the SenderID will also be overridden by a local reply address.

More at this address

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One Response to Skype releases new beta, 2.5 – and now you can send SMS! But US users – be careful!

  1. Arijit says:

    Skype is unbelievable. We are waiting for SkypeIn to be used in India.

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