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Planning Retirement Online

Catching You Up On Skype

If you are still catching up,
here’s an easy overview of tablets and Skype

The other day we came across Broadband Genie. It seemed to be aimed very well at our age group, a generation who have had to adapt dramatically to constant bombardment of new technology in later life that can often leave us confused and frustrated.

The site provides a place where everyone can learn about broadband, mobiles and tablets in easy language, and interestingly it also compares broadband providers in an unbiased plain English way. That is something that resonates with our age group.

Matt, from Broadband Genie, kindly offered to give us some basics about tablets and skype, products that are so useful to our age group but are taking a while to be fully accepted and understood.

What are tablets?

A tablet is a hand held computer with a touch screen interface.These devices are often quite inexpensive and, while not as powerful as proper laptops or desktop computers, they offer plenty of flexibility for day to day computing. Plus they are very portable so excellent for travel.

Tablets vs iPads - which is best?

The iPad is a range of tablets made by Apple. Essentially they are no different to other tablets - they are slim, light, portable and have a touch screen - but due to the popularity of the iPad range and the software which is exclusive to Apple they’re often viewed quite differently to other tablets.

If you’re considering purchasing a tablet it helps to be aware of the key differences.

Apple iOS, Google Android and Microsoft Windows

iOS is the name of the operating system (OS) used on the Apple iPad (as well as the iPhone). Only Apple is allowed to use iOS. Most other tablets available today use the Google Android operating system, which is freely available to any manufacturer, while some also use Microsoft Windows just like a normal computer.

If you’ve used any Apple mobile device before you may be more comfortable with the interface on an iPad, otherwise you should try to test each before buying to see which you prefer.

App stores

The software (or ‘apps’) available for tablets cover everything from productivity and creativity tools such as image and music editors to gaming and entertainment. Both Android and iPad tablets have a vast range of apps but the two are not compatible. If you already own apps on a smartphone using one of these operating systems, it is probably best to choose the same OS for your tablet so you can continue to use your favourite mobile apps without spending more money.

There is an app store for Microsoft Windows too, however the choice is very small in comparison. But the big advantage of a Windows tablet in this regard is that they can run many of the same software tools as a regular laptop or desktop computer.


The Apple iPad range is more expensive than many other tablets. But fans of the iPad feel it’s worth paying for, citing the build quality, software, ease of use and after sales support. Android is a much cheaper option though, so if you’re just dabbling in tablets for the first time or just want a basic device for things like web browsing and ebooks they’re more than capable and very good value.

The benefits of tablet computers

Tablets are great for all kinds of things, and may even be able to replace a full size computer for a fraction of the cost.

Tablets are generally very light and small, easily stowed in a bag for travel. Some of the smaller models will even fit into a coat pocket, but they still offer bigger screens than a typical smartphone so are much more comfortable

The enormous choice of apps and accessories means they can handle many tasks, from word processing and image editing to gaming, music and video. They’re also useful for voice and video chatting using built in cameras.

Battery life
Many laptops have a relatively short battery life, but tablets can often last much longer, making them better suited to lengthier journeys. They can also be charged using portable battery packs.

Low cost
A brand new tablet can be bought for under £200 now. Or you can buy a tablet on contract and pay a set amount each month which includes data so you can use the internet when not on a wi-fi connection. You can find out more about tablets and the different contracts here.

How To Use Skype?

In order to use Skype you will need the following:

Computer or other device compatible with the Skype software

Skype is widely supported. It will work on a Windows or Apple Mac desktop or laptop computer, but you can also download it for Apple, Android and Microsoft tablets and smartphones.

Free Skype account

You will need to setup an account at Using the basic Skype-to-Skype calling and messaging features is entirely free, but if you would like to make calls or send messages to landline or mobile numbers then payment is required.


You’ll need a microphone for the device you want to use for Skype calling. If you’re using a smartphone or laptop then a microphone will already be built in. Many tablets also include mics, but if not you can usually attach an external mic via the headphone socket.

For a desktop computer you will need to purchase a standalone microphone and plug it in via the input port, but these are not expensive.

Webcam (optional)

A webcam is required to make video calls. Any reasonably new laptop will have a camera built in, and most smartphones and tablets now have front facing “selfie” cameras. For a desktop computer you can purchase a separate webcam.

To use Skype you will need to first sign in using your Skype account. Initially your contact list will be empty, so you’ll need to add friends in order to be able to call or message them. Skype has an account directory which can be searched, but with so many users it can be difficult to find specific people.

The best way to add contacts is searching for the email address registered with Skype, though if you are using Skype on a smartphone the app can search your address book and add people automatically.


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