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Hangouts vs Skype: do we have a new VoIP champion?

Hangouts vs Skype: do we have a new VoIP champion?

Skype has always been there. It doesn't exactly provide the results you always want in terms of call quality or frame rate, but it is such a part of everyone's web and Android experience that it's hard to remember a time when you didn't use it. With the latest update to Hangouts bringing full inbound and outbound call functionality to Google's one-stop-communication-shop, which already has video calling, SMS, MMS and instant messaging support, the question needs to be asked: do we now have a new king in the VoIP space? Here's our Hangouts vs Skype comparison.

AndroidPIT Hangouts Skype logos
Hangouts has just become the dark horse on Skype's horizon. © ANDROIDPIT

Hangouts vs Skype: interface

Hangouts now has a new Material Design theme. Skype is still rocking their refreshed interface from a year ago. Hangouts is the green machine while Skype is big blue. Take a look at the following screenshots and decide which one you prefer.

AndroidPIT Hangouts interface 1
The new Hangouts is clean, green and lean. Not the Hangouts Dialer tab on the right. © ANDROIDPIT

Both are based on tabs but Hangouts offers three tabs for contacts, chats and dialer with a swipeable navigation drawer to the left, Skype has three tabs for chats, favorites and contacts with the dialer shortcut at the bottom. New chats in Hangouts are created via a + icon in the top right, and Skype uses a speech bubble in the bottom row. In both apps, video calls and regular calls can be handled from individual contact's profile pages.

AndroidPIT Skype interface
Skype may not have changed much lately, but its still a nice neat interface. © ANDROIDPIT

Hangouts vs Skype: features

If you install the new Hangouts Dialer along with Hangouts you will have instant messaging, SMS and MMS, video calling to Hangouts contacts, phone calling to anyone (including free calls in the US and Canada) and Google Voice integration with low cost international call rates. Skype offers instant messaging, video calls to Skype users and phone calls to anyone with low international rates.

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Skype (left) gives you more attachment options than Hangouts. For now. © ANDROIDPIT

Hangouts lets you attach photos or location data to your Hangouts but Skype gives you the full range of attaching files, photos or video messages to chats. If you have Hangouts enabled as your default SMS app you can switch between sending messages as either instant messages or as SMSes. Both apps offer free group video calling for up to 10 participants and both services can be used simultaneously on the web and on Android.

AndroidPIT Skype Hangouts chats 1
Both Skype (left) and Hangouts are fully kitted out with options to communicate. © ANDROIDPIT

Hangouts vs Skype: quality comparison

Skype is notoriously patchy when it comes to video call quality, with terrible frame rates, slowdowns, freezes, drop out and pixelation all being a common part of the Skype experience. Things have improved recently, and if you have a rock solid Wi-Fi or data connection many of these issues might not bother you, but poor video call quality is a persistent VoIP issue. Hangout doesn't get out scot-free either, as you'll see below.

I did some quick side by side tests on the same Wi-Fi connections with my good friend and colleague Loie Favre. Of course, the strength of your Wi-Fi network and the quality of your particular connection might present slightly different results, but here's what we found when we compared Skype and Hangouts one after the other.

AndroidPIT Skype Hangouts video quality bad
Neither Skype (left) nor Hangouts has great video quality at the start of video calls. © ANDROIDPIT

Hangouts vs Skype: video quality

The video quality for Hangouts tended to be pixelated and patchy at the beginning and then smooth out and speed up after a short while. Skype's video started well (but not perfectly) but as always, was prone to all sorts of weirdness at random times, including audio glitching, jumpy frame rates and the good old robot voice. Take a look above at the first few seconds of video quality.

Skype's sound quality in video calls was pretty distorted and had lots of strange high pitched and squeaky audio artifacts. In video calls, Hangouts sounded better to my ear. Here's another screenshot from each video call after the image had settled down a bit. I sort of prefer the quality of the Hangouts image and the fact your own video image is much less intrusive, but Skype gives a bit more life to the subject in terms of color. You decide which one you think is better.

AndroidPIT Skype Hangouts video quality good
Video quality improved on both Skype (left) and Hangouts after a little while, but Hangouts sounded better. © ANDROIDPIT

Hangouts vs Skype: call quality

For Wi-Fi phone calls, Hangouts answered on Loie's phone with video and on speaker phone, which is distinctly weird, especially if that's totally inappropriate for the setting in which you answer a call. While Loie could switch off video on her end she couldn't disable speakerphone. We tried this multiple times and got the same result.

Skype answered the way you'd expect. In our little test, Skype had better sound quality during Wi-Fi phone calls whereas Hangouts had a bit of general background noise: the opposite of the experience with video calls. As far as paid calls went it all sounded equal. Depending on what you plan to use Hangouts or Skype for more – normal calls or video calls – then you might want to pick a service based on the best audio or video quality for your particular use case. Again, your individual experience may vary compared to ours.

AndroidPIT Skype Hangouts incoming call
On normal Wi-Fi calls, Skype (left) had the better sound - which wasn't the case on video calls. © ANDROIDPIT

Hangouts vs Skype: call rates

Call rates are dependent on where you are calling from and to. Check out call rates for Hangouts and Skype's call costs and draw your own conclusions.

Hangouts vs Skype: verdict

I don't want to tell you which service is better. You might have a long and beautiful history with Skype, whereas mine has been about as patchy as the video calls I make with it. So perhaps I am subconsciously looking for an alternative, but I like Hangouts' Google integration, I prefer the video calling quality and I like that I can have all of my SMS, MMS and IM messages in one place, along with video calls and phone calling.

Skype is still my choice for international calls though, although it is still early days for Hangouts on that front, and I was more impressed by the call connections in Skype when making standard calls. As with all free apps, it doesn't hurt to try them both out and see which one suits you better. But hit the comments below and let us know which service you think is best or if you simply use both of them.

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  • The article you have shared here very good. This is really interesting information for me. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you for the great article
    But it is already 2 year that pass from this article and i would like to say that both of this VoIP operators are sucked. They are expensive without good quality. I start use Zangi which is now one I can say that Zangi is the first place by their good HD video call's quality and cheap Zangi out calls.

    If you are looking for the new article pleas do some research about Zangi and give us now information.

  • French is the second most spoken language in the world and chances are you already saw French speaking people A knowledge of French would greatly improve your ability to communicate with them. Besides you are not the only one to learn French, roughly 100 million people in the world do! Come and join them and learn French using Skype through (Preply)

  • My experience with both apps on Android (voice calls, no video, both wifi and a great quality 3g):
    hangouts2hangouts calls: 2-3 seconds lag
    hangouts2phones (to US): 2-4 seconds lag
    skype2skype: no lag
    skype2phones (any, e.g. Bosnia to US, or Bosnia to Croatia): no lag!

    Skype problem: it doesn't stay in background processes (it fails to ring when someone calls me, same with text messages)
    Hangouts problem: voice lag and while i used it instead of the system sms messenger, received sms often doesn't show up in notifications (i receive it late, when i reopen hangouts).
    So, both are faulty, but for voice call quality, skype is my champ.

    For domestic net2phone calls i use zoiper for android and a local company plan with a personal landline number which is 5 times cheaper (per minute, and they charge by seconds) than my mobile plan (there are no monthly fees and no connection fees). Zoiper's minus is data consumption during calls (about 80mb/hour compared to viber's 40mb). However, 2GB (USD 3) is usually enough for my monthly needs.
    So: 1. skype for international calls, 2. zoiper for domestic calls, 3. viber for net2net calls (and hangouts for unimportant free phone calls to US). I just take the best of all, according to my needs.

  • Skype had recent problems with their international plans towards Europe. They just don't deliver any service as you pay for the plan !!!! I contacted them and they assured me they would fix it by 24 hours but they didn't. I have to add Hangouts no plan involved is from 2 to 3 times cheaper than Skype international plans (Hangouts: 3 cents vs Skype: 8 cents towards French mobile and Hangouts: 1cts vs Skype: 3 cts towards landlines in France). Of course it's pennies for a single user but for companies it represents a huge saving by using Hangouts !!!! Overall quality Hangouts is not saturated like Skype !!!!

  • Dave Apr 17, 2015 Link to comment

    You forgot to mention all the filters and effects Hangout offers!
    Also Skype on Android will eat much more batterie while being cluttered with ads...
    My choice is Hangouts over Skype every time.

  • Hangouts and Skype are best for social interactions. For business meetings, security is most important, hence I would prefer using a R-HUB web conferencing server. It is secured and encrypted.

  • Our company uses Hangouts and I hate it! We used Skype at a previous employer and it was rock solid! The use of video in conferencing isn't really leveraged that much even in Hangouts. Most people don't need (and don't want) to be seen to communicate usually. Hangouts is extremely buggy. I can't count the times I've logged on to a conference the same time others are but it shows waiting for others to join. I'd have to cancel and reconnect before it would work ok. Also, the screen sharing is very problematic in Hangouts and in my opinion unusable. I also really don't like the fact that GH doesn't have as good of a status setting option as Skype. I like the option to be logged in and no one see that I am logged in at times as is easily managed in Skype. GH falls way short on this option and many times I think I am logged out of GH others still see me as online which sucks.

  • Karl Oct 9, 2014 Link to comment

    I've been using Google Hangouts heavily, for IM, video, and voice calling, it is awesome. I love the way you can go between devices and have every conversation right there. I like it better than Skype, and it's far superior to Whatsapp. I think Google has put extra effort into Hangouts because they want to stomp the competition (Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft). They are doing a great job.

  • I am excited to see all of the alternatives for VOIP communication. It makes my life as a freelancer much easier. I don't feel obligated to use any particular program. I can choose something that works best for me. Has anyone commenting tried using either product in relation to business? If so, how did that work out for you?

  • I'll take hangouts. For international calls Skype pay as you go charges ridiculous connection fees for each call clearly giving hangouts the edge at least for shorter calls. The SMS advantage for hangouts especially in US and Canada is great. Finally, the integration of hangouts on the android platform is much better than that of the Skype app.

    • These are all good points and I tend to agree with them: I think Google will push the services, functionality and integration of Hangouts in ways that Skype simply cannot do. Plus it will all happen a lot faster than with Skype. I know not everyone was a fan of Hangouts in the early days, but I think it has a big future ahead of it.

  • I pick Hangouts vs Skype ; as I hate what Microsoft has done to Skype ; and feel Google over time will improve Hangouts

  • My1 Sep 13, 2014 Link to comment

    The dialer will probably help only in us, since Google voice is us only...

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