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SightSpeed, a Skype replacement?

:: Monday, June 15th, 2009 @ 11:23:45 am

:: Tags: , ,


Lau says Whaaaaaa?

I was recently complaining about Skype’s deteriorating service (as is routine these days), and one of my friends on Facebook suggested that I try out SightSpeed, a service owned by Logitech. I downloaded the Mac client, installed it, and was instantly confused when I launched the application. Why did my camera just turn on, and why does it look like I just started up AOL? Seriously, it looks like a fake interface that you might see on an infomercial for turbo charging your internet access.

I tested video chat, and the video quality is actually quite good. This is to be expected from a company that produces the best webcams around. SightSpeed offers VoIP services so you can call out to normal phone numbers for similar prices to Skype’s. You can also sign up for a “Phone In” number for a fee, but I didn’t get that far because “United States” is not in the list of supported countries (it was missing in the drop-down list). Also, I didn’t see any options for call forwarding, which is something I like to use in Skype.

I’m having problems figuring out who is going to use SightSpeed. Given the current interface, no computer-savvy person is going to go near it. For computer-to-computer chat, any user on a Mac will instantly (and happily) default to iChat, which offers fantastic audio and video chat, and I can live with using Google Talk’s audio and video chat when I have to talk to Windows users.

That only leaves people who use VoIP bridges to standard phone numbers. I’m one of those people; I call internationally quite a bit, and want one application that supports text chat, audio chat, video chat, and VoIP. At the moment, I use a combination of Adium (traditional chat with AIM, Yahoo, MSN, and GTalk accounts), iChat (traditional, audio, and video chat with AIM, MobileMe, and .Mac accounts), and Skype, with the occasional chat in GMail’s interface. That is just way too many apps to manage, but each one offers something that I can’t find in another.

I wanted SightSpeed to be a Skype replacement, but even though SightSpeed offers good video and audio quality, there are some reasons I can’t see myself ever using it:

  1. Horrible interface. Seriously, guys, it’s horrible.
  2. It hijacks your computer’s camera and keeps it on even when you aren’t on a call.
  3. No USA Phone In support, at least, that I could find.
  4. Can’t minimize the application to just a contact list. If you are expected to keep SightSpeed running at all times, it should minimize to an IM-style contact list like every other chat app does.

Each one of those is a deal killer. I just uninstalled the application. Or, at least, I think I did. SightSpeed’s Mac OS X version comes with an installer, which makes me nervous. If it were just a stand-alone application, I would have expected just the application to be in the .dmg (as per the norm). I did a search for all files with “SightSpeed” in the name, and only came up with a prefs file and a growl plugin, so I think it’s safe to just trash the app.

Ideally, Skype will address its service issues and fix what used to be a wonderful product. But for now, my search for a Skype replacement continues…

As a side note, I can think of someone who might want to use this app. If you are a computer neophyte with kids, and a grandma who has a computer and broadband, you may want to install SightSpeed. Then, when you’re on the (real) phone with Grandma, you say, “OK, Grandma — now, double click on the icon that says, ‘SightSpeed’.” And then, you connect with Grandma on Sightspeed and force your grandkids to say hi to her on high quality video.

| Friday Harbor, WA | link | trackback | Jun 15, 2009 11:23:45
  • scot

    Have you tried gizmo5? I find it similar to skype and it works on Mac, PC, and Linux – even on my Nokia 810 with video.

    -s

  • Philg

    I had to laugh about your criticism of the user interface. You did not criticise it’s functionality, only it’s look. It would be interesting to hear what really bugs you about it (botton sizes,color, lack of exposed knobs). I think you feel as a techie you need a complicated interface to be cool. :-)

  • http://echeng.com echeng

    You’re right, Phil. In addition to the functionality complaints I had (which you apparently missed), the application is too damned ugly to use.

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