Microsoft’s Skype has just announced a major new feature upgrade for its iOS and Android mobile apps: support for group video calling with up to 25 people. That’s huge increase over the limit to one-on-one video calls that existed before today. Skype users in the US and Europe should have access to multi-user video calls between today and the end of next week, while Microsoft says it will be available worldwide by the end of March.
You would think more than six or so people in a single video call the screen would get pretty crowded with faces, but Skype has come up with some elegant interface solutions. Users will see their own broadcast in the lower right of the screen, with others being added to a grid that will automatically adjust to make room.
Once eight or more people are on a call, the person talking will always be put front and center, with everyone else put in a scrolling list at the bottom. If there’s a specific person users always want to see, they can pin them to the main grid so they remain on-screen.
Along with up to 25 people, video can be broadcast at 1080p when under the best conditions. Users can also continue to switch between their phone’s front and back cameras. One might expect the quality and connection to ground to a halt with so many users on one video call, but Microsoft says it’s working with Intel to take advantage of SILK Super Wide Band audio codec, having it run in the cloud and powered by Intel processors.
Other improvements include new call invitation options for iOS and Android, such as sharing a link with someone who isn’t on a users’ contact list, allowing them to join the group automatically. These invitation links can sent via each platform’s default sharing tools, such as iMessage or Hangouts. Users joining a call can also participate with Skype for Web.