Since its launch in 2003, Skype has become one of the biggest players in messaging apps (along with Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts). However, plenty of new apps have arrived on the scene since then, like ooVoo, WhatsApp, Qik, Slack, Tango, Viber, kik...after awhile the list starts sounding like the roll call for the new Star Wars film.
The newest arrival to the messaging game is called Wire, and it’s actually backed by Janus Friis, one of Skype’s co-founders. Wire has been lauded as a “modern-day Skype,” which you might think sounds a little silly at first. Isn’t Skype a modern-day Skype? ...And then you realize that Skype is over 10 years old.
So could it be time to make the jump to Wire, or should you stick with Ol’ Reliable? Here are some things to keep in mind:
Wire’s interface is probably the feature that most sets it apart from its competitors. Upon downloading the mobile app, you’re asked to pick an avatar. From there, you can link to your contacts to see if any of your friends have Wire accounts. (Most likely, they don’t: although Wire has been downloaded in every country worldwide, the actual number of downloads is somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000 according to Google Play.) After linking contacts, you’ll see something like the photo above.
As you can see, there’s...not a lot to see. While the interface looks really nice, it’s not exactly what you’d call intuitive. Tapping the plus sign allows you to send email invitations (or start a conversation, if you already have Wire contacts). Swiping the screen down brings up a search box, and swiping to the right brings you to an equally pared down page with a Settings icon which can eventually get you to a support webpage that teaches you the Wire Basics. The web app looks identical, without the need to swipe right for the Settings icon.
For some people, Wire’s interface is going to be a major draw. It cuts down on a lot of the clutter you get from other messaging apps, and most of the icons will be familiar to savvy users. Others, however, may feel like Wire is too minimalist. Some have even gone so far as to say it’s almost a “parody of minimalism.”
Moving from the overall interface to a Wire chat, it becomes apparent that Wire is all about visuals. You can upload YouTube or SoundCloud links to your Wire chats, and they will play within the chat window. This also works for photos and GIFs. This feature is not available in Skype, so it’s a good example of Wire’s more “modern-day” features. Wire also syncs your conversations across multiple devices, so you’ll always be up-to-date. Users of the newly rolled out web app will also be able to create and leave group chats.
Wire boasts high quality voice calls, although this is something that has come to be expected from voice messaging apps. It should also be stated that, unlike Skype, Wire is not able to call standard telephone numbers; all calls have to be to other Wire users. The most valuable voice call feature offered by Wire (and which isn’t offered by Skype), is its ability to transfer calls between devices. For instance, if you’re calling someone from the mobile app, you can log into the desktop app, and a TRANSFER CALL HERE banner will automatically appear. Clicking the banner seamlessly transfers the call to the new device, and your conversation can continue without interruption.
This is where Wire falls the most short. As of now, there is no video chat option on either the web or mobile apps. This is something that has long been available to Skype users, as well as users of other messaging services. While video calling is a feature Wire’s developers hope to roll out eventually, it’s hard to imagine what kind of user would forgo video calls in favor of what Wire has to offer now. However, it’s worth saying that this isn’t necessarily an either/or situation: you could certainly use Wire as your primary messaging app and switch to Skype only for video calls.
Right now, it’s difficult to fully endorse Wire as a modern Skype alternative. While it has some great features and a beautiful interface, it’s lacking a lot of what makes Skype such a messaging powerhouse. Overall, Wire seems to be making only marginal improvements on what Skype already has to offer. However, a large part of that is due to Wire’s newness on the scene and (so far) low user counts. If it really takes off, Wire could very well become a major player in the messaging game. For now, we’d stick with Skype and keep Wire on the periphery, and who knows where we’ll be in another 10 years?