Google Hangouts vs. Skype: A comparative look

Kara Deyermenjian

Microsoft Skype has led the video conferencing world for so long that its name has morphed into a verb, used in sentences like, "Will you be able to Skype when you're abroad?" and "Are we Skyping later?" But Google has challenged the notion that Microsoft is the video-chatting king with its May 15, 2013 release of Google Hangouts -- a platform that was marketed as a groundbreaking technology in the realm of free group video chatting.

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With Hangouts boasting features such as the ability to group chat with up to 10 participants for free -- a feature Skype only offers for a fee -- it is definitely giving Skype a run for its money. There are downfalls to being the new kid on the block, however, and the team behind Hangouts is still in the process of launching features such as texting and has started allowing users to make phone calls via the Hangouts service as of July 9, 2013. Skype on the other hand, which was first released in 2003 and boasted over 100 million users by 2006, is no newcomer in this space. Skype has already offered features like presence, SMS (for a fee) and outbound audio calling long ago -- just to name a few of the offerings Hangouts is still new to.

As a follow up to our Skype vs. Google Voice tech comparison chart, the editors at SearchUnifiedCommunications have created a chart that offers a feature-by-feature comparative look at Google Hangouts vs. Skype. Google Hangouts can be described as the cooler, older sibling of Google Voice -- a VoIP offering that focused mainly on audio communications; but is it feature-rich enough to overtake a market that Microsoft has reigned over for so long? Take a look at the chart, and let us help you decide.

Google Hangouts vs. Skype feature comparison

FEATURE GOOGLE+ HANGOUTS SKYPE
Mobile/landline calling If you have a Google Voice number and Google Hangouts enabled, you can receive and make phone calls. Calls from anywhere to the U.S. and Canada are free. Skype-to-Skype calls are free, but Skype-to-phone calling requires a Skype subscription. U.S. and Canada subscriptions cost $2.99 per month. Domestic pay-as-you-go plans cost 2.3 cents per minute.
International calling Hangouts users can make free international calls between each other. International calls to landline and mobile phones are not free. Skype-to-Skype international calls are free. Calls to landlines and mobile phones cost $13.99 per month (excluding rural Colombian areas). A Skype Unlimited World plan offers unlimited calls to phones.
SMS/texting Not yet available through Hangouts, but Google Voice offers free domestic SMS. Skype Credit must be bought to SMS; rates vary by country. Domestic U.S. SMS costs 11.2 cents per message (not including Hawaii or Alaska).
Fixed phone number (allowing other phones to call you) Google Hangouts offers free Google Voice number integration. You can confirm your current mobile phone number with Hangouts to allow mobile users to start a Hangout with you by typing in your phone number. More than one number can be associated with your Hangouts account. Skype numbers cost $5 per month for a 12-month contract and $6 per month for a three-month contract.
Mobile device extension/access All mobile devices support Hangouts. The Google Hangouts mobile app requires data network access through Wi-Fi or a 3G/4G network. Smartphones always use a Wi-Fi connection in preference to cellular data when available, and when not available will use your data plan. Note: The Google Hangouts app won't work for Android devices on AT&T's network; Wi-Fi must be used instead. All mobile devices support Skype. The Skype mobile app requires data network access through Wi-Fi or a 3G/4G network. Smartphones always use a Wi-Fi connection in preference to cellular data when available, and when not available will use your data plan.
Audio/video conferencing Up to 10 participants can video chat. Hangouts On Air broadcasts Hangouts to an unlimited amount of people (while only 10 people can participate). Google Apps for Business ($5 per month), Google Apps for Education (free) and Google Apps for Government (less than $5 per month) support up to 15 participants. One-on-one video conferencing is free. Up to 10 people can group video chat, but one person must have a Skype Premium paid subscription (the cost varies by country: U.S. is $4.99 per month for a 12-month subscription and $7.49 per month for a three-month subscription).
Screen sharing You can create a chat room and prepare/test the screen before inviting participants to video chat. You can share your screen, but only after establishing a video call.
File sharing Hangouts' integration with Google Drive enables document sharing. Google+ enables photo sharing. Skype allows file sharing over IM or audio/video calls.
Presence Not yet available. You can set your status and your mood.
Call/chat history You can choose to save the history of a Hangout. Messages are stored in Hangouts and synchronized with the Gmail chat archive. A room can stay open until an organizer closes it. You can also view past call/IM history by selecting a contact's name.
Social media integration Hangouts integrates with Google+, Google Drive and YouTube. Skype integrates with Facebook and Outlook.
Supported platforms Hangouts supports IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari browsers; and the Mac OS X, Windows, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Ubuntu and Chrome operating systems. Skype supports IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari browsers; and the Mac OS X, Windows, Windows Vista, Windows XP and Ubuntu operating systems.

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Do you have a question about this tech comparison chart? Please send all inquiries to our editors at editor@searchunifiedcommunications.com

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Which video chat service do you prefer, Google Hangouts or Skype?

Kara Deyermenjian
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