Skype for Windows Phone cannot be used in the background, cites platform limitations

Daniel Bader

February 29, 2012 9:27 am


Skype for Windows Phone made a pretty big splash this week at Mobile World Congress, but now that the din has lessened somewhat, the harsh reality of what it can’t do is emerging. Though Skype for Windows Phone looks great and works very well for a beta, certain limitations of Windows Phone itself prevents it from running in the background or receiving calls when the app isn’t open.

What does this mean? If you, say, have a scheduled call with someone but want to mess around on your device before they call, you’re out of luck. If someone tries to phone you and the app is not open, you will appear offline and their call will go straight to voicemail. Similarly, if you are in a call and want to exit the app to browse on your device like a regular call, the call will be disconnected and the app will close.

Though there are certain background agents available to Windows Phone applications like third-party music players, this feature hasn’t been extended yet to VoIP clients. And what about a push notification to alert you of when someone is calling? According to Skype, the turnaround is too slow for a real-time call; by the time you’d see the toast notification, open the app and answer the call, too much time would have passed on the other side for it to be feasible.

Don’t expect things to change before the final build in April, either. This limitation is built into Windows Phone Mango, though Skype won’t comment on whether its app will be more heavily integrated into the OS in Apollo, the version expected to be called Windows Phone 8. iOS had a similar limitation before iOS 4, but considering Microsoft now owns Skype you’d figure they’d try to make an exception for one of the platform’s most important apps.

We had a chance to test out Skype for Windows Phone and despite limitations the app does a great job; it is fast to connect, has fantastic sound quality and overall feels less cluttered than the iOS and Android versions. If you’re interested in downloading the Skype Beta, check out our previous post.

Source: The Verge

  • leobg

    Uh oh!! I might pass on that Lumia 900 I was thinking about if multitasking is really like that.. Microsoft, come on, even the hated Symbian does better than that!

  • beuh_dave

    that’s just kinda sad.

    • CADDMan

      If this software were the final release version, then you, and all the other naysayers, would have some legitimacy in giving that kind of opinion. However, because this is a Beta version of Skype working on a version of Windows Phone that doesn’t allow more than one foreground application of this type, your opinion is premature.

      That being said, if Microsoft puts out the final release version of Skype without also releasing an update to it’s Windows Phone OS that specifically allows VoIP applications to continually run in the background (BTW Windows 8 does specifically have an API allowing background operation so it’ll run fine on desktop and tablet PCs) then I’d back you up 100%.

    • Manbo

      @Caddman Show me WP8 or that Microsoft is going to update the function of WP7 and we’ll talk.
      The underlying issue is how WP7 multitasks. The reason it is buttery smooth is because it kills background applications. While day to day functionality is not affected by this, anything that requires constant streaming seems to have issues. Next time I am testing a WP7 at work I’ll see if there is an internet radio app and try to switch to something else.. Or if anyone has WP7, is that the case? i would like to know, because I find it pathetic the nowadays a smartphone can’t keep a VoIP application running in the background.

    • CADDMan2

      @Manbo

      1st, I’d love to show you WP8 or the next version of WP7, but as you’re undoubtedly aware they haven’t been released yet. Hence my comment about waiting to see when the ‘Final’ version of Skype for Windows Phone is released. If it’s released and it still can’t run in the background, I will stand with you in my condemnation of Microsoft for releasing such a limited app (As I’ve already clearly pointed out).

      2nd, regarding multi-tasking, how WP7 multi-tasks is very much the same as how iOS multi-tasks (you’ll have to admit that’s a very popular platform). Unless there’s an API available (I would guess iOS has an API already) for the platform that allows for background operations the app goes into Suspended mode or completely shuts down, just like iOS, when not in the foreground. Windows 8 has an API specifically created to allow Metro apps, such as VoIP, to continue to run in the background which lends credence to speculation that there’ll be a similar API available for the next version of WP7, which the release version of Skype could take advantage of. Since the next release of WP7 hasn’t been officially announced that’s conjecture, but makes sense considering the fact that Microsoft would like to make the development model for phones, tablets, and PCs the same.

    • Another CADDMan

      @Manbo – Yeah, I’m losing sleep over this one issue as well, NOT. As I’ve already stated let’s wait and see when the FINAL version of Skype is released before we condemn it. It is still only a Beta and Microsoft can still release an updated OS allowing background operations like Windows 8 already has for Metro apps.

  • bob

    And again, people wonder why WP7 do not take off.
    Seriously, it’s not even on par with Android 2 yet.

    • Keith

      You can tell Windows Phone is starting to worry all the Android fans. It’s a beta app and of course it will be fixed. Tango (the app not the upcoming OS release) can run in the background and receive notifications so I’m sure Skype will manage too. That said, the Windows Phone VOIP APIs do need some work yet as well.

      The real story is how much better the app looks and feels on Windows Phone which is a common attribute of apps that run on all platforms-assuming they’re not just straight ports.

  • deltatux

    Seriously, Microsoft should have foreseen apps requiring this functionality if the other two big platforms support it. I would say give it time but honestly, Microsoft should have had the cue to put this in during Windows Phone 7 Tango.

  • Marc

    One word: DEALBREAKER

  • TouchMyBox

    I wouldn’t mind having to constantly have Skype open in the foreground if I had Erika Berg on my friends list.

  • Dave

    HAHAHAHAHA.

    This is what Nokia chose to bet the company on?

  • jr67

    This wouldn’t seem like that big a deal to me except did MS frickn buy Skype? They should have maybe had the two groups talking.

  • Sean

    Remember that this is a beta version of skype, the full program should be launching alongside tango and in tango they will probably implement the necessary software changes to make this happen.

    • bob

      During this time, both Android and iOS have a working, non-beta, background Skype.

      So ironic.

    • CADDMan

      @bob, which Microsoft will surely continue to make money off of as well, thank you very much.

  • julilly

    This is a major fail. If you leave Skype open it will drain your battery or use up data.

  • MDRam

    Even my webOS phone handles Skype better and thats not saying much…:D

  • Rebellion

    Folks WM7 and Mango can’t even use multicore processors. I was giving a popular phone manufacturer a hard time about all the WM7 phones they were bringing out and they filled me in on all the issues with WM7 including the inability to utilize the multicore processors. In fact they are so far behind that even their newest version coming out still will not handle it.

  • andy c

    Devil’s advocate

    keep in mind that Skype is widely rumoured to be baked into WP8.

    if your microsoft and know the above info would you commit alot of resources to perfecting an app that will be obsolete in less then a year?

  • jr67

    @Sean Skype might be beta, but this limitation has nothing to do with Skype. It is a limitation of the OS not to support VOIP apps in the background. Maybe WP7 will be updated to support it, but that implies WP7 is effectively the same as a beta.

    • CADDMan

      So by your logic iOS, Android, & Playbook are also “effectively the same as a beta” since they also release new features in new versions that didn’t existing in prior versions.

  • WP74Life

    People read one sentence in the whole text and Go mad at WP7.
    Read the last paragraph and all will be clear for you, android fans:

    We had a chance to test out Skype for Windows Phone and despite limitations the app does a great job; it is fast to connect, has fantastic sound quality and overall feels less cluttered than the iOS and ANDROID versions.

    • trudat

      you can’t keep the android fans from posting on every story. I think if we all the other platforms pooled together, maybe we could buy them a life. They’re like the O’Doyle family from Billy Madison.

    • Dalex

      Such a troll to the end… hilarious…

      Actually I chose to read the whole article and not pull out the one positive thing they have to say as opposed to the rest which is negative.

      It’s ok for you to troll every android post, but android fans can’t mention anything when its a WP7 post? ROFL…

      Oh right… there aren’t very many posts on WP7 are there… I wonder why…

    • WP74Life

      Maybe because there is 4 new release of android devices each day, one better than other.
      Open your eyes buddy, you’ll realize how Android focus on devices release instead of making a good OS which is completly different at Microsoft.
      Luckily for Google, XDA and the community do their job.
      Microsoft is perfecting their OS faster than anything out there.

  • Paul

    To be honest I have found Skype less and less relevant when you find other platforms available that can do the same thing. Considering how new the platform is and how recent the sale was then it would only make sense the first beta wouldn’t be all you can be to people. I am sure future updates will allow this functionality.

  • Donald

    Woah. That’s horrible.

    I was acturally thinking of getting a Windows Phone, but maybe I’m spoiled by the Playbook, but there is no way I can go to a mobile device without REAL multitasking.

    Really hope they fix that.

  • Jean-Philippe Savard

    Please STOP with the ‘Misinformation’. Skype for Windows Phone is actually a ‘BETA’, please guys read about what a ‘BETA’ mean.

    Basically it mean that many features are NOT YET Implemented.

    Push notification and such will eventually be there in the Final Version.

  • groovejumper

    I’m actually ok with this, in fact it’s almost preferable. I’m busy enough as it is, I don’t want to have to drop everything just because someone decides to Skype me. I do love Skype, but, like many other forms of communication, I prefer to initiate.

    Don’t call me, I’ll call you. This version will do fine for now.

  • Jesse

    [insert Windows Phone inferiority remark here]

    Seems people don’t realize that Skype is only in beta so far for WP. Whether my phone ran Skype in the background or to, I really wouldnt care. Skype is not something I use 24/7. I’m not going to throw a fit just because I have to actually go to the effort of turning on the app and calling someone again….oh my….that’s so much work!

  • Matthew

    I downloaded it but so far it does not see all of my skype enabled contacts that I can on my pc-based version.

  • swizzlerz

    They didn’t call it a beta for nothing… Its not final release yet. At this time its a beta … remember that everyone!

  • Dalex

    Lol, Wp7 isn’t even worrying RIM. Some of you are hilarious.

    @WP7 Dude, just quit trolling every post about android. All you do is spew the same useless comments about XDA, specs and fragmentation. We don’t care bro, no one besides Nokia cares about WP7. Maybe if wp8 actually stops limiting OEMS and let’s them fit windows phones with differentiators, it might be relevant, but don’t hold your breath.

    But hey, guess what, Friday you’ll be able to buy the lumia 800 for just 529.99$ Rofl! If you wait just a bit longer, it will be in the clearance bin once the 900 hits.

  • iamhere

    For everyone trying to excuse this as being a beta, WTF are you talking about? Who cares if Skype is in beta, that isn’t the problem. Skype could release GM tomorrow and it still wouldn’t work properly because WP7 can’t support background VOIP APIs. This has nothing to do with Skype being in Beta. It is just an example of the ineptitude of the brain trust managing in Redmond. The Pink project was a similar disaster. They honestly have no clue whatsoever what they are doing in the mobile space. The bought Skype primarily to help their revamp of their mobile division AND THEY FORGOT THE F’N API!!!!!

  • Ivan

    Funny Windows Mobile never had this limitation. That’s why I gave up on Microsoft as a mobile platform when they killed WM, as it was a developers dream. Now WP7 is a developers nightmare.