Skype: Please don't force 7-inch tablet users into landscape mode for video chats, it's dumb
Yesterday, Skype released the tablet-optimized Skype 3.0 for Android, bringing not only support for larger screen sizes, but also the new SILK audio codec which promises improved audio fidelity over previous versions of the application.
After testing it for the last 24 hours, we can say it's a smooth app and we haven't experienced any significant problems with it. Except one, and it's simultaneously a big deal and a stupid little detail.
The problem with this update is that Skype is only usable in landscape mode, and for Android tablet users, that design is sort of a relic of the Honeycomb era of devices. In Jelly Bean, Android is finally usable in both portrait and landscape modes on a tablet, so swapping from one to the other is now a natural part of the Android tablet experience. Skype forces you into landscape mode.
It's a stupid little detail because, well, you can just move your hand.
But the reason why this is a big deal is because the most popular 7-inch Android tablets have a camera in the "portrait" position. If you're holding your tablet in landscape mode and using Skype, your hand will be directly in the camera's field of view.
Google says its Nexus 7 is the current best-selling Android tablet, and that's a somewhat difficult piece of information to substantiate. However, it's clear that whatever the top-selling Android tablet is, it's a 7" model. Amazon's best-seller is the Kindle Fire HD, followed by the Kindle Fire, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. All of those are 7-inch tablets, and among them, only the Kindle Fire HD has a chat camera in landscape position. Furthermore, all iPads have cameras in the portrait position, including the new 7-inch iPad Mini.
Forcing the majority of 7-inch tablet users into landscape mode to use their chat camera is almost certain to guarantee a suboptimal experience, and that's just silly, especially since Skype owner Microsoft doesn't even compete in the mass market 7-inch tablet space yet.