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Google Hangouts vs Skype vs iMessage

iMessage and iPhone, iPad, or OSX device are the gold standard for getting all of your devices to ring when there is an incoming call or text message. The actually implementation is a bit harder to realize but it goes something like this.

  • If both parties are an iMessage user then the message is sent through the internet proper to the Apple servers and then directed at the configured devices. (blue send buttons and bubbles)
  • If one party is not iMessage capable then the messages are sent through the traditional SMS network. (green button and bubbles) But if the receiver is an iDevice then the message is redirected back into the Apple message network and is redisplayed on all the subscribed iDevices.

Of course regular phone calls land on the phone and then are simultaneously networked to local subscribed iDevices. This seems to be a variation on the tethering theme only in reverse.

Recently Google Hangouts and Google Voice started to merge.  Hangouts has become my defacto analog phone and desktop SMS. Getting everything working well together was pretty easy but not for the uninitiated. In this sense Google seems to be a bit of a jalopy. The missing element is that it helps to have a google voice account. That allows you to tie all of the comms together across all your subscribed desktops and devices. Transitioning to google voice can be a challenge because it is a new phone number and so you never know who has what.

Google Voice is a topic for another day.

Skype was acquired by Microsoft a few years ago. It was a good buy for them as they needed to capture some technology as well as the "eyeballs". In recent months MS has been collapsing many of their tools into Skype. For example I understand that Lync and Skype are merging in some way. This is a good idea since there is some overlap and it will introduce more new people to the services. The challenge for Skype is (a) their quality is lacking and that may be a function of a less than ideal environment. (b) they invade my address book (c) the abuse that is out there (d) and advertising when I'm a paying subscriber.

The quality issue could be any number of issues, however, it has not improved from the days prior to the acquisition. I think that the Skype team designed a system based on ideal conditions instead of the reality. WiFi conditions vary widely, device capacity to codec demands, local and remote ISP, the networking model (switching only vs switching and media).

Neither Skype or iMessage have a ChromeOS version. But I do not know if I care because hangouts works everywhere I do.


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