Skype pushed out an update to its iPhone application today that makes a number of improvements to the calling service. Most importantly, it brings back URIs, which were previously stripped out for unknown reasons. This is a major benefit to developers, who can now enrich their apps with baked-in Skype support.
Skype’s URIs, which encompass a number of different APIs, let developers add Skype calling and chatting to their own apps. For example, if a mobile app generates a contact list with Skype names/numbers contained within, the app can use the URIs to launch the Skype client to initiate a call or send a message. Without the URIs, Skype users on the iPhone didn't have the ability to make Skype calls from other apps. Calls made from third-party apps launched the iOS dialer. Now, iPhone users will have a choice with URI-enabled apps.
In order for the URI to work, a Skype client must be installed on the user’s device and they must have an active account. Microsoft (which owns Skype) doesn’t require applications or web pages to be Skype-certified since all the interactions actually take place in the Skype app itself. In other words, you don't have to submit your app to Microsoft nor worry about it being policed by Redmond.
Right now, the Skype URIs support four distinct APIs: switching to the Skype app; initiating audio calls to other Skype users, landlines, or mobile phones; initiating video calls to other Skype users; and sending instant messages or creating group chats. These four functions can be added to third-party apps and web pages. Developers can use simple hyperlinks or Skype buttons.
This can be a real benefit to businesses that include their contact information for customer support. Allowing customers to call from the app they want reduces friction and makes them more apt to reach out. Furthermore, plenty of business users take advantage of Skype to save money when calling from abroad. Providing them with this option makes their lives easier.
Microsoft has plenty of information on how to use URIs here, including branding, FAQs, tutorials, and reference documents.
Beyond support for URIs, Skype 5.10 for iOS also makes a handful of user-facing changes that most should appreciate. For example, Microsoft made it easier to save phone numbers that have been entered into the dial pad or numbers in the recent calls list. When users choose to save a number, they can quickly create a new contact so they don’t have to search for the number in their call list again.
Skype 5.10 is free to download from the iTunes App Store. As always, Skype-to-Skype calls are free, but Skype-to-landline or -mobile require Skype credit.