Skype adds video-over-3G capabilities to its iPhone app

Skype's free iPhone app now offers 3G video calls -- but Skype still recommends using Wi-Fi for best call quality

Skype has updated its free iPhone app, adding the ability to make video calls over 3G mobile networks. The updated app is available for download from Apple's app store, Skype announced Thursday.

The app runs on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and can make or receive Skype-to-Skype video calls over 3G or Wi-Fi networks, although to get the best quality, Skype recommends using a Wi-Fi network with a strong signal. Skype will not charge for the video calls, although network operators may charge for the data traffic, the company warned.

The new video calling feature -- compatible with Skype's latest apps for PCs running Windows, Linux or Mac OS X -- will provide additional competition for Apple's fledgling Facetime video calling service, which only runs on Apple hardware and cannot yet make calls over 3G mobile networks, only Wi-Fi or (in the case of the Macintosh version) fixed network connections.

Skype for iPhone 3.0 will run on the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and fourth-generation iPod Touch running iOS 4.0 or above. On the iPad and the third-generation iPod Touch, the app will only be able to receive video, not transmit it, because those devices lack a camera, Skype said.

Unleashing extra traffic from millions of iPhone owners will test the strength of Skype's peer-to-peer calling network, which suffered a major crash a week ago. That incident, between Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, occurred when late responses from an overloaded cluster of servers caused clients running a particular version of Skype's software to crash.

Some of those crashed clients were "supernodes" in Skype's network, responsible for coordinating calls between other clients, and their failure created additional load on the remaining systems, which quickly failed in their turn.

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