Displaced African Review: Skype

NB: Unless otherwise specified, the $ sign refers to Australian dollars and not American dollars. To check out exchange rates please check out this website.

If I were to write this article without any rules it would basically be one long drool-fest over Skype.

Skype image


I decided I would create some rules. This article will consist of:

a) 5 great things about Skype

b) 5 not-so-great things about Skype

c) My overall verdict of Skype

d) A score out of 100% on the Displaced African scale

e) How to immediately get started using Skype

First of all: What is Skype?

icon for podpress  A business woman describes Skype: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Skype, in a nutshell is a service that allows you to make phone calls, from your computer or certain mobile phones, over the Internet. In addition to that, Skype also has services that allow one to:

a) Send instant messages and chat.

b) Send smses to phones.

c) Make video calls over the Internet.

One of the key distinguishing features of Skype is that users of Skype can have phone conversations with each other over the Skype network for free. Skype also offers competitive rates to call any country in the world.

I hope this is enough information to get a good grasp of what Skype is. If not then either:

a) Download Skype (it’s free) and play around with it. Maybe call me up for free on Skype; my username is masmilele.

b) Contact me or leave a comment and let me know what you don’t understand

c) Go to Google and learn a bit more about Skpe.

5 Great things About Skype

Skype image

1) A lot of people use it: Even before you begin using Skype there are already 270 million people using it. If 100s of million of people all over the world, including myself and my family, are using Skype there must be a reason: It works!

2) Convenience: Skype is the only internet telephone service that also has a mobile phone component through a partnership with mobile phone provider 3. This means you can make free Skype-Skype calls from anywhere: the house, the bus, the porcelain throne room…..etc etc.

3) Cheap: It is $0.03 A MINUTE to call UK and US. Half of all the phone calls I ever need to make for less than the cost of….the cost of….nothing is as cheap as $0.03 in Australia. Calling Kenya (where the other half of Skype calls go) is about the same as calling using a phone card ($0.27), BUT I get all the added benefits that Skype brings to my life. To check out Skype rates check out the Skype website.

4) Topping up credit is easy: I use a debit card and this debit card is already linked to a paypal account (the same paypal account through which you can donate to the Displaced African by clicking on the ‘Make a Donation’ button on the right, wink ;) ). This Paypal account is automatically linked to my Skype service. This means that all I need to do to top up my Skype credit (can either buy $16 or $40) is click one button and within seconds I have credit.

Contrast that with (brace for it) having to get out of the house, get in the car, go to the milk bar that’s closed, decide to go to the one further down the road, get there to find the only phone card is gone and eventually get a phone card three days later when you have even forgotten why you wanted a phone card in the first place.

Not good, me thinks!

5) Free calling: My cousin lives in Ireland and back in the day when I would call his cellphone and spend hours spewing weird diatribes about the world, the phone bill used to rack up quite some frequent flier miles. Fortunately now he uses Skype on his mobile phone and so all I need to do is get on my computer grab my headset and we can have a free conversation for hours complete with file sharing and discussions-that-were-formerly-known-as-diatribes.

Bonus: Has extra features that allow you to:

a) Record calls and save them as mp3s ( e.g. if you want to have your own podcast or radio show)

b) Have conference calls and group chats

c) Send free smses and instant messages to other Skype users.

d) Send smses to regular phones (which means you type faster because you are using a keyboard-though some people on the phone, you would think they are Bruce Lee)

5 Not So Great Things About Skype

Skype images

1) You can’t use Skypeout on mobile phones: When you connect to Skype using a 3 Skypephone, ALL phone calls made -including international-outside of the Skype network are through the 3 network. This basically means that you can’t use Skype’s cheap rates when you are using 3 Skype phones. Instead you have to rely on 3 having great rates. This reduces the flexibility of international calls from your mobile phone.

2) The person using Skype must have access to the Internet: This pretty much restricts my grandmother and a lot of my extended family from getting in contact with me at Skype prices.

3) You can’t buy credit in cash: If there was a machine that could allow you to buy things on Amazon, ebay and Skype using cash I would use it. Sometimes you don’t have money in your account but you have cash at hand. This makes buying Skype credit less accessible.

4) Not all my friends and family know about it and use it: Only a few members of my family know about Skype. I would love to be able to make free Skype-Skype calls to all my friends and families (and readers). Hence the reason I am writing this article…So what are you waiting for? Get with it, and add me to your Skype phone book.

5) Using Headphones and Earphones May Cause Deafness: Use of Skype (especially over the computer) means that I use my headphones quite a bit. Apparently there are experts who say using headphones so much may cause hearing loss. Though this phenomena is predominantly associated with Ipods and loud music, I believe the same principles may apply for prolonged headphone use over Skype.

My overall verdict: The best way to make international calls and stay in contact with your friends who regularly use the Internet. A long way away from being perfect especially in terms of making the convenience of Skype universally accessible. On a selfish note, they could definitely reduce their prices on calls to Kenya.

Skype employees

The Displaced African score: 75/100

How to Get Started Using Skype

You can begin using Skype now by clicking on this link which will take you to the Skype website where you can download Skype for free and begin chatting with the other 270 million Skype users for free (don’t forget to add me to your Skype contact book, my Skype name is: masmilele)

I really enjoyed writing this review and I hope it was of some use to you. If you would like to see more reviews of this nature, or you have products you would like me to review, then leave a comment below or contact me.

Be blessed and bless others,



  • By seinlife, April 23, 2008 @ 5:41 am

    Great piece! Have you had any delay issues while using skype?

  • By Mwangi, April 23, 2008 @ 5:43 am

    @seinlife: Thanks! No, never had any problems. Have you?

  • By Half n Half, April 23, 2008 @ 8:03 am

    You forgot those random anonymous crazy people from turkey (I swear they are ALWAYS from turkey) who pop in and out! I know you can put private but why is it that anyone can just start chatting or calling?

  • By Michelle Vandepas, April 23, 2008 @ 8:45 am

    I love skype. Sometimes I have a hard time putting in numbers like… press 5 to speak to the turtle or 5347892340986 to speak to a live person after I’m put on hold, but still, the system works great.

  • By gal africana, April 23, 2008 @ 9:11 am

    Every time I called the US or Oz, I’d lose the connection like every 6 minutes and would have to call again…and then I had the sneaky feeling that my credit was running down faster than it should…either that or I talk too much lol

  • By Mwangi, April 23, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

    @gal: Hmmm, you too huh! I have never had that problem. Do you or seinlife have any idea why that problem occurs?
    Wow! You actually managed to finish credit with a calling rate of $0.03 a minute, that is quite a feat , you must be an absolute hoot over the phone.

  • By Mwangi, April 23, 2008 @ 4:43 pm

    @Half and half: That happened to me for the very first time about two days ago. I actually thought it was a virus at first. Fortunately for me, this hasn’t become a big problem yet. Now I know to look out for people from Turkey or women who want me to “check out their Myspace or hi5 profile”. Thanks for stopping by

  • By Mwangi, April 23, 2008 @ 4:45 pm

    @ Michelle: I am glad I have a fellow Skype fan in you. Y’all are pretty much opening my eyes to problems with Skype I never knew existed. That is yet another problem I have never had. Whenever I have had to log into conference calls or put in pins it always works out great. Thanks for sharing your experiences though, at least people reading this article will have a little more info on the not-so-good-things about Skype.

  • By Caustic Blonde, April 23, 2008 @ 6:38 pm

    I have been curious about this since you mentioned it in another one of your entries, I will have to check it out.

  • By seinlife, April 23, 2008 @ 10:50 pm

    @mwangi – skypeout has worked fairly well for me except when i had win2000 and it would just freeze up my system forcing me to reboot BUT that was then… skype video on the other hand is aggravating…voice delays, crosstalking and dropped calls happen all the time.
    My father-in-law uses it too to make long distance state to state calls and he says he experiences dropped calls and voice delays too.
    Am not really sure why it works for some and not for others or why it works sometimes and not others…..i guess nature of the beast…

  • By gal africana, April 23, 2008 @ 11:17 pm

    I know! I always wonder why I have to pay more money in…where does it go? Other than that, Skype is great.

  • By Mwangi, April 23, 2008 @ 11:29 pm

    @ Caustic: Download it for free and have a play with it. Let me know how you go with it.

  • By Mwangi, April 23, 2008 @ 11:32 pm

    @seinlife: Maybe it’s bandwidth issues- some areas simply don’t have the bandwidth, especially for continuous video streaming calls. I have no experience using video calls personally but the one time I saw a video call made to Kenya there was definitely voice delay and the picture was of poor quality – though I suspect this is due to the camera more than anything else. I will experiment with video calling and possibly report back on the site.

  • By Mwangi, April 23, 2008 @ 11:34 pm

    @gal: You are probably calling all your friends on mobiles because I simply cannot fathom that. I have made 3 hour calls that cost less than a loaf of multi grain bread…..either that or get your own radio breakfast show because clearly you have a lot to say (heck you could even add that to your bucket list ;) )

  • By Mr shrestha, October 11, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

    When i call my fren in kenya frm skype. It always comes busy. he cant see any incoming call in his skype mobile. I have tried alot but still there is the same problem. can u tell me what is the cause of this?

  • By Mwangi, October 14, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

    @Mr Shrestha: Unfortunately I wouldn’t know specifically what the cause could be. Some possibilities are:
    1) Slow internet in Kenya
    I would advise for you to review the free Skype tutorials or take advantage of their support services.

    Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

Other Links to this Post

  1. Conversation with the Founder of Ushahidi and Mashada: David Kobia » The Displaced African — June 26, 2008 @ 3:15 am

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