Hands-on with the gorgeous new Skype experience

Microsoft today announced a new revamp for Skype. The new revamp radically changes how Skype looks while keeping some of the most loved features of the app. It isn’t going to show up in all of your devices on day 1, but it’s still an interesting new look for the app.

The new Skype includes a new minimalist design that simply looks gorgeous. The new design gives you quick access to the camera, enabling you to share pictures and videos with your Skype contacts right from the homepage of the app.  The new design also gives users quick access to the search feature, and it’s also now easier to start a new conversation.

The new Skype design definitely takes some cues from Instagram’s black-and-white design which actually looks beautiful. The new design is still very colorful, however. For one, Microsoft has added color transitions (read: gradients) to the chat bubbles in the conversation UI which is certainly an interesting piece of design. Users can choose the theme for the color transitions on the chat bubbles, and they can also choose to completely disable them if they want to.

The use of space by the new Skype design is terrible

One thing that I’m not a big fan of in the new Skype design is its use of space — in the conversation UI, a good portion of the display is being used by the conversation header and the chat buttons and input on the bottom, leaving around 70% space for the actual messages sent in the conversation. This isn’t going to be a huge problem if you have a phone like the Samsung Galaxy S8 or the Google Pixel XL, but if you have smaller phones like the regular iPhone 7, you’ll start noticing the awful use of space by the new Skype app.

Skype’s Snapchat Stories clone lasts for 7 days

These changes are all very nice, but the main new feature on the next-gen Skype is Microsoft’s clone of Snapchat Stories. Microsoft is the latest company to clone Snapchat’s Stories feature, and Redmond is calling it “Highlights.” Highlights on Skype are a way of sharing your day with your Skype friends — you can share a picture or a video, and these highlights will last for 7 days. That’s around 6 days more than Snapchat, where Stories only last for 24 hours.

You can add emojis and stickers to your highlights, sketch on highlights, add text, and do literally everything else that’s possible on Snapchat Stories. Highlights on Skype is just a 1:1 clone of Snapchat Stories, just like most of the other clones like Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status. It’s an interesting new addition to Skype, but it will only take off if users actually start sharing their day with their Skype friends. Most users use Skype to make video calls and chat, which could make it difficult for Microsoft to get users to actually use Highlights. That’s actually the same issue WhatsApp Status is facing: not a lot of people actively use the feature.

The new Skype will only matter if Highlights takes off

The new Skype makes Skype work just like any other messaging app. The new design looks absolutely stunning, although there are some rough edges that Microsoft will need to polish before the wider rollout starts. What’ll be very interesting to see is whether the company’s Snapchat Stories clone actually takes off. Three of Facebook’s Snapchat Stories clones (Messenger Day, Facebook Stories, WhatsApp Status) couldn’t really get any traction from users even though Facebook keeps boasting about its active users. So it’ll certainly be difficult for Microsoft to get its users to start using Highlights.

Microsoft is currently rolling out the new Skype to users on Android, with the iPhone version set to launch within the next couple of weeks. The company is also working on bringing the new Skype experience to desktop users, but that’s coming in the “next few months.”