Microsoft still cares about Skype and it’s adding a ton of new features
With Windows 11, Microsoft is finally integrating Teams directly into the operating system, and it would seem that the company is getting ready to leave Skype behind. At least, that’s what we thought. Today, the Skype team announced a huge set of new features coming to Skype in the near future, promising to make the app better at just about every level. If you didn’t want to move on to Teams, it looks like Skype is “here to stay”, according to Microsoft’s blog post.
Diving right into what’s new, Microsoft is redesigning the call stage, the area of the call where participants are shown. There are tons of tweaks being made here, starting with a new design that fits both light and dark themes for the app. Next up, your own video feed will now be visible in the call stage as any other participant, rather than having a small window in the corner (though you can disable this).
The call stage now also shows all participants, even if they aren’t sharing any video – but again, this can be changed. Instead, you’ll see their name and – another new feature – a custom background image so you can more easily tell everyone apart. Additionally, the call stage is now rendered so that participants are evenly distributed on the screen, instead of having someone show up by themselves in one row, for example.
Another key improvement Skype is making to the calling experience is performance. The team is promising up to 30% better performance in “key scenarios” on desktop and an over 2,000% (you read that right) improvement on Android. This should make video calls far breezier for everyone involved.
Aside from calls, Skype is getting design tweaks all around, too. There are new icons across the app, and some buttons are now colored and make use of subtle gradients. The app is also getting new themes that apply not just to chats, but also to the different buttons across the app. Users without profile pictures will also now have differently-colored images featuring their initials, instead of having blue letters on a flat colored background.
Microsoft is also improving the Meet Now experience, which allows Skype users to invite anyone – even non-Skype users, to join a quick meeting. Now, the Meet Now lobby is going to be lighter, faster, and have an improved design. People you invite to a meeting can now see a preview of the meeting, including its name and participants, before joining.
Calls are also getting a bunch of other new features, starting with TwinCam. This allows users to stream the video feed from two cameras at the same time. This works by allowing users to scan a QR code on their PC using their phone, which can then be used as a second camera for the call. Both cameras will remain active, so participants can more easily show off what’s happening around them, such as pets or kids playing in the room.
Call reactions have also been improved with a new reaction picker that makes it easier to access all the available reactions more quickly. There’s now a search bar for different reactions, and you can also pin your favorite ones for quicker access.
Finally, there’s a new Skype Universal Translator feature. Call and chat translation isn’t completely new, but now, not only will it work in Skype-to-Skype calls, you can also use it in Skype-to-phone calls. Even if you’re calling a landline phone, you can use the automatic translation feature in real-time.
All of these new Skype features will be coming at some point in the future, but Microsoft didn’t provide any clear timeline. Currently, we only know that it’s coming soon. You can download Skype here, or check out the Insider version if you want to be one of the first to try the features as they roll out.