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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Nokia N800 & N810: How to install and use Skype to make free and cheap phone calls

What is Skype? What is it used for?

Skype is a popular internet phone application, which lets you make and receive free calls to and from other Skype users. It doesn't matter where you are, you can talk to anyone else on Skype free of charge.

You can optionally also make and receive cheap calls to and from ordinary phones (including landline phones and mobile phones) by paying a fee to use the extra services SkypeOut (for calling normal phones) and SkypeIn (for receiving calls from normal phones).

Skype effectively turns the tablets into mobile phones, especially if you buy the extra services. It works through the tablets' Wi-Fi connection and also through their Bluetooth mobile phone connection, though the sound quality may be very low if your phone connection is very slow (for example the quality is very bad on 2G phone networks but better on 2.5G, 3G and 3.5G networks).

Skype on the tablet is the same thing as Skype on a PC or Skype on a smartphone, it's all one network and all Skype users can talk to each other whatever device they're using. You can use Skype on many devices simultaneously. For example, you could have the same Skype account running on your tablet and on your PC, and any incoming calls will ring on both devices. You can answer these calls on any device you want, it doesn't make any difference.


How much does it cost to use Skype?

Calls between Skype members are free, you can talk for as long as you want and Skype will not charge anything.

Bear in mind though that if you're using Skype on the tablets through a Bluetooth mobile phone connection, you will have to pay whatever data fees your phone network operator normally charges you for using the phone as a modem. Check with your network operator if you're unsure what these charges are, and ask them about any special deals they have as many networks offer deals where you just pay a flat monthly fee for unlimited access.

The cost of calls to ordinary phone numbers depends on which country they're in. You can see a complete list of these charges on the Skype website. It doesn't matter which country you are in, all that matters is which country the number you're ringing is in.


How to install Skype on the N800 and N810

The N800 and N810 have a Skype icon in the "My Selection" part of the Applications menu (the green squares on the left). If Skype is already installed, clicking on this icon starts it up. If Skype isn't already installed, clicking on this will start the automatic installation process. Say "yes" and "ok" and "I agree" to all the questions it asks, and the Skype app should install without any problems.

If the tablet won't let you install Skype by clicking on the icon, you probably need to update the tablet's firmware. You can find out how by clicking here to view our firmware update tutorial.


How to sign in to Skype

Once Skype is installed, click on its icon in the Applications menu to activate it. You may have to agree to the app's user agreement the first time you use it.

If you already have a Skype account, for example from Skype on your PC or any other device, you can use this same account to access Skype on the tablet. Simply enter your username and password, and tick the box if you want it to automatically log you in when you start the application in the future (this is highly recommended!).

If you don't have a Skype account, click on the "New User?" icon to create one.

After you've signed in with your account's username and password, you will see your Skype contacts list appear on the left of the screen. This will happen even if you normally use Skype on a PC, because the contacts list is stored online and automatically downloaded onto whatever device you're using.


How to call other Skype members

If you already have some Skype contacts, you can call them by just selecting their name from the list and pressing the green "Call" button.

When you do call people a special window will appear which includes buttons for ending the call, muting the call and adjusting the volume. It will ring just like a normal phone until the other person answers.

If you want to add Skype contacts, click on the menu at the top and then "Add A Contact". It will then ask you to search for whoever you want to add as a contact. If you already know their Skype username, enter this in the search box and click on "Find". If you only know their real name, you can enter this too but the results may not be the person you think they are. For example searching for "John Smith" displays the usernames of many people with that name.

When you do find a username you want to add to the contacts, click on it on the search results and then click on "Add Skype Contact" at the bottom of the screen. Tick or untick the box depending on whether you want to share your Skype details with that person, and then click on "OK" to add them to your contacts. If you don't want to add any contacts at all, click on the "X" in the top right hand corner.

Remember that you can use Skype on any device to call people on any device. Skype on a tablet can be used to call Skype members on a PC for example, and you can have Skype active on many devices at once. This is handy if you want to use the tablet as a Skype phone around the house or on the move, so that you're not tied down to using Skype on your PC.


How to receive calls from Skype members

To receive calls on Skype, the Skype application must be active. When someone calls a window will pop up in the application with an option to answer the call or to reject it.

However, you do not have to have Skype constantly on the screen for it to be active. After you've signed in, you can leave Skype running in the background and use the tablet for something else if you prefer. This can be done by clicking on the minimise icon in the top right hand corner (it looks like an arrow pointing down at a line).

When a call comes through, you will hear the Skype ringtone, a notice will appear in the top right corner saying there's an incoming call, and the Skype icon in the task bar will flash. See the video above for an example of this happening.

If the Skype app is minimised when the call comes through, you can restore it to full size by clicking on its icon on the left of the screen. You can then answer the call by clicking on "Answer".


How to call real phone numbers on Skype

Skype lets you call real phone numbers using a service called SkypeOut. This costs money, in fact it's the main way that the Skype company receives an income.

If you want to call a real phone number, click on the blue phone icon near the top of the screen (watch the video above if you're unsure where this is).

You then enter the phone number using the on-screen keypad, but remember that you have to enter it in an international form, which means using the country code of the person you're calling and also dropping the first 0 from their number if there is one. For example, the country code for Finland is 358 so calls to Finland through Skype always begin +358. If a Finnish phone number has a 0 at its beginning, this is dropped in the international form of that number, so "09 12345678" would become "+358 9 12345678".

You need to have Skype Credit if you want to phone real numbers though. This can be added by clicking on the "Buy Skype Credit" link in the Skype application, which is next to the on-screen keypad. You can pay for Skype Credit using a credit card, or alternatively you may be able to buy Skype Credit vouchers with cash in certain shops.

As noted in the costs section above, the cost of calls to real numbers on Skype depends entirely on where the number is. It makes no difference where you are. You can see the current rates by clicking on the "SkypeOut rates" link next to the on-screen keypad.


How to receive calls from real numbers on Skype

As well as SkypeOut, there's another service available from Skype called SkypeIn, which gives you a real phone number that other people can call. Calls to this number go automatically to your Skype account, and it effectively turns your Skype account into a phone line.

Like SkypeOut, you have to pay for SkypeIn, but it's just a flat fee which lets you use the number for a certain amount of time.

To add SkypeIn to your account using the tablet, click on the Skype menu at the top, then Tools, then Settings, then click on the small arrow pointing right on the right side of the screen until you get a tab called "Services". Click on the "Extend" link next to the "SkypeIn" icon. It will then open part of the Skype website, follow the instructions to proceed.


How to tell if you've received a missed call

You can see a complete list of calls made and received by clicking on the History icon on the main page of the Skype app. The icon looks like a clock with a blue frame, it's next to the Contacts and SkypeOut icons.

If you have received an unanswered call, the History icon should have a red symbol next to it, and you can see who called you by clicking on the icon.


Where is the tablet's microphone? Where should I talk into?

In normal mode the tablet works like a speakerphone, you just put it on a table and talk to it like you would talk to a real person.

However, if you really want to know, the N800's microphone is in the middle of the top edge of the tablet, while the N810's microphone is in the middle of the bottom edge of the tablet.


What about privacy? How do I call someone without the call coming through the tablet speakers?

Very easy answer: just plug in some headphones. Any headphones will do as long as they have a standard 3.5mm plug.

You can also use the headphones that come with the tablet, which include a built-in microphone inside the plastic button along the length of the cable.

Alternatively you can use a Bluetooth wireless headset, which is useful if you want to handle calls without having to take the tablet out of a pocket or bag. Click here to see our tutorial on using Bluetooth headsets with the tablets.


How to use Skype for instant messaging

As well as voice calls, you can chat to other Skype members in text. To do so, just select a member from the contacts list and click on the blue "Chat" icon. Type in whatever you want to say, and they will see it the next time they log into Skype. They don't have to be logged on to start a chat with them. When you've finished with a chat close it by clicking on the "X" in the top right hand corner.

If you want to go back to a chat, click on the Skype menu at the top, then click on Chats, then select the name of the person you're chatting to.


How to alter the settings on Skype on the tablet

There are all kinds of options and settings on the Skype application. You can access these by clicking on the menu at the top of the screen, then Tools, then Settings.

The settings screen is divided up into many tabs, and you can scroll through these tabs by clicking on the small arrows on either side of them. When you reach the last tab in either direction, the arrow will turn grey.

When you've finished adjusting the settings, click "OK" to save your alterations, or "Cancel" to discard them.


How to sign in with a different Skype account

If you want to use a different Skype account on the same tablet, you have to sign out of the account you're currently using. To do this, click on the menu at the top and then Sign Out. You can then enter the username and password of the account you wish to use instead, and sign in to this different account.


How do I install Skype on my computer?

Just click here to go to Skype.com and then click on the Download link. There are versions of Skype for Windows PCs, Linux PCs and Macintoshes.

If you are going to use Skype on your computer, you will probably need a headset, but these can be bought very cheaply at any computer or electronics shop. Just ask the salesperson for help and explain you only want something cheap (don't let them sell you expensive headphones, you do not need them for Skype!).