Is it just my bad luck, or is Skype a bit rubbish?

I’m just about to give up with it.

I’m going to start doing a regular podcast, and I thought IF anyone ends up listening to it, and IF they want to give some feedback, they could call us on Skype and leave a voicemail, that we could play back during the next podcast. But it’s not to be with Skype. It just doesn’t work for me.

I set up a second account (I have a personal/private one already) for the podcast, and switched on voicemail. The iPhone Skype app tells me voicemail is still switched off, but I know it is definitely on.

So what – faulty status message – whatever. I call from private account to podcast account. Then I leave a message after the beep. It’s all going fine. And THEN I listen back to it. The message seems shorter than I remember. I have another go. Nope. Definitely shorter.

How much shorter? Well, about 4-5 words. “This is Ben calling from home to check if this is working”, turns into “ome to check if this is working”. The problem with that, is that the first 5 words could well be “this is John from Dover” or whatever. Assuming the same thing happens with a Skype online number (a service that lets people call you from a landline, and get through to your Skype account), then in a business capacity this would be even worse. Imagine the “this is <person> from <potential client>” getting cut off at the beginning of the message.

I’ve got a Mac and an iPhone. There are Skype clients for both, so I’ve tried every combination of recording on one, playing back on the other. And recording on one, logging out of account, back into other, and same again. Same problem. It always cuts off the first few words. I googled this but can find nobody else with the same problem. I left a message in the support forums, which (much like most of the posts in the support forums, it seems) hasn’t been answered. I can’t see it can be me as I’ve tested it both ways between two accounts, on two different clients (Mac and iPhone).

If you’re still with me, you might be about to blame my Internet connection. To be fair, the connection here is average to say the least. I’ve just done a speed test and it’s come back at 2.4mb/sec down, 0.5mb/sec up. Piss poor, given my not-that-far-from-city-centre location.
But a few months ago, I came to be spending a lot of time somewhere with no landline, but which had quite fast broadband (10mb+ on every test). I bought calling credit during this time to use proper paid Skype, so I’d have the ability to call landlines. I ran through all the Skype tests, and the clarity was perfect. So with that in mind, I made the first call, to a company with an 0845 number (and that isn’t listed on saynoto0870). It lasted seconds, before the sound quality was so garbled I couldn’t hear the menu options, and hung up.

Some Skype credit gets taken at this point.

I attempted the call again, got through the menu options, and sat in a queue. 20 minutes later I get through to a human (see why I didn’t want to call this from my mobile?), and before she’d even finished asking me my security questions, it was breaking up again.

I managed the call (having to repeat several bits, and guessing what she said in reply), but the next time I needed to call a company with only an 0845/0870 number, I just used my mobile. It’s expensive, but it works.

If the voicemail problem were a connection/speed issue, then that also wouldn’t be acceptable. It’d be like having a phone number that only people with the latest smartphones could call. Either it’s widely usable and accessible to most people regardless of connection speed, or it isn’t.

The pro-comments I see about Skype online are all along the lines of “but it’s free” and “it’s great for talking to my uncle/niece/son/mum in Australia”. But as someone who isn’t having much luck with it, is that all it is? Am I just having bad luck with it, or is everyone else just putting up with getting intermittent poor connections, sound breakup, and limited support “because it’s free”, and they don’t want to pay for international calls? Because I don’t even know anyone in Australia.