Microsoft has released its own ephemeral messaging app, “Skype Qik,” in an attempt to prove there still is some innovation left in the increasingly crowded messaging space.
Skype Qik marks Microsoft’s first Skype app since, well, the original Skype app. And at its heart, Skype Qik is basically a watered down, video-only Snapchat.
Snapchat, at its core, is an app designed to give a glimpse into your life, and Microsoft fails to realise that, at this point in the game, that means more than just video.
Besides video messaging, Snapchat offers picture messaging along with the ability to annotate images with text and drawings, and the incredibly popular Snapchat Stories feature weaves these two forms of messaging together to create a visual status of your day. On top of all that, Snapchat’s since introduced texting, capitalising on the opportunity to keep its approximately 30 million users inside the app.
Skype Qik’s video-only focus fails to differentiate itself from competitors, but Microsoft has done a good job with the design of the app, creating a clean and tidy interface that is plenty intuitive.
Here’s how it works.
Setting up Skype Qik is simple, but it requires you to plug in your mobile number so it can pull from your contacts.
To record a video clip, you just tap the neon pink button once to start and again to stop and send it to your friends.
One of the biggest hurdles for a messaging app is convincing your friends to start using it, and Skype Qik tries to solve this issue by letting you send a message to anyone in your phone’s contacts. If you send a message to a friend without the app, they will receive instructions on how to download the app and get started.
Skype Qik also does a good job at organising your contacts in an easy way.
You can manually send a video message to a single friend or a group, or swipe up to reveal a contacts page that lets you create groups for faster selection.
If Qik has one differentiating feature, it’s the ability to send pre-recorded video clips when you’re too busy to record a new one. The app stores these right next to the pink record button; just tap the smiley and you’ll be greeted with your collection of pre-recorded responses that you can categorize with “lazy,” “coming,” or whatever matches your mood.
Even with its tidy interface, it’s still tough to figure out why anyone would want to use Skype Qik when so many alternatives exist, from Snapchat to Taptalk to WhatsApp to iMessage.
Microsoft seems to be trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist, and it quickly becomes clear when watching one of the launch video for Skype Qik.
The video shows how a video conversation works with Skype Qik, as someone asks his friends over for a pizza dinner. You almost get a sense that this is how Microsoft thinks people want to communicate, sending bite-sized video messages of conversation, but that’s not what video messaging is for; it’s for capturing a moment, not a conversation.
It’s hard not to feel like every action in Skype Qik would actually be carried out through a group message on iMessage or WhatsApp. And if people want to broadcast what they’re up to via video, they’re going to use Snapchat for its flexibility in capturing and broadcasting that moment, whether it be with a direct-to-user video message or a publically-viewable Snapchat Story. Snapchat’s sheer size advantage is also convincing more and more people to give the app a try as they realise it’s the primary way their friends communicate.
Microsoft may have realised this fact, as its second launch video focuses more on the hopefully spontaneous nature of the app for capturing moments, but if you swapped out the intro logo and the screenshots, you would think you’re just watching a Snapchat advertisement, even though that service offers more features, and more importantly, people.
At the end of the day, Microsoft has indeed created a well-designed app with Skype Qik, but its lack of truly differentiating features might not be enough to pull users away from Snapchat any time soon.