Skype’s mobile apps are terrible, and the only reason you’d want to use one as your main communications platform would be if the company rebuilt the software from the ground up. Well, luckily enough, that seems to be what it’s doing with Skype Mingo — an experimental Skype app for Android that’s currently in alpha testing.
Mingo is your “ultimate communications hub,” says Skype. Not only does it have Skype’s usual mobile data-powered video and voice calling functionality, but it also handles native phone calls, your phone’s contacts, and SMS. The app also seems like it’s aimed at developing markets where data is at a premium. The release notes state that that the app is not only “small and fast,” but comes with features like Economic Calling and On-Demand Sync to help users save money.
But the important question for many users is how exactly does it handle SMS? Does it just stand in for your phone’s default text message app, or does it sync texts with your Skype account and with Skype’s desktop app? According to Microsoft blog MSPowerUser, which first spotted the app, it’s the former: Mingo will send and receive texts from your phone, but it won’t sync them anywhere. This is a feature Microsoft has previously called “messaging everywhere,” and which is now known as SMS relay. (Apple calls this Continuity.) It’s currently only available if you have the Skype Preview app for the latest Windows 10 Insider preview build and a phone running Windows 10 Mobile. So, you know, it’s not exactly widespread.
These caveats aside, Skype Mingo is an interesting peek at the direction that Microsoft could take its premier communications app. And turning Skype into a lightweight messaging hub on Android would put also Microsoft ahead of Google. Google’s own Allo app (released in September) does let you send and receive SMS messages, but only through a relay phone number — not your own. Despite its somewhat unusual name, Mingo could be going places.