Microsoft responded to 7 complaints I had with Skype SMS Relay

As listeners know from Episode 82, I discussed my dissatisfaction with the Skype for Windows 10 universal preview app… particularly around SMS Relay and the terrible contacts handling that results in contacts duplication.

Around the same time, I posted quite a few comments on Twitter about the topic as well as I’ve often been known to do, since I avidly support a return of Messaging Everywhere. In response, a Skype engineer reach out to me to get specific feedback on the app with regards to SMS Relay. Below are comments to the engineer and a summary of the engineer’s responses on each item’s status…

Note: This will be a little longer than the usual posts we write up, mostly because I want to give specific details and context of the feedback provided and the responses given.

1. Skype UWP is still MUCH SLOWER to load and work with conversations than the Messaging app. This is minor most of the time, thanks to notification toasts that I can reply in, but there are times I just need to get into the app and reply quickly and it’s a huge delay by comparison which sours the experience even if it’s only a few seconds of delay.

Response: Although several improvements were introduced around 11.12.x release, this continues to be a priority of the team, and much of it revolves around some of the backwards legacy that needed to be maintained while they completed their backend changes. We can expect to see continued improvements in this area going forward. Aaron: I’ll definitely admit that each release does seem faster, though I still see the “connecting/retrieving conversations” message a bit more often/longer than I’d like.

2. SMS Relay has actually been quite reliable for me when sending/receiving messages. That’s the good news. What’s NOT reliable is the sync up across devices. Not only will messages frequently NOT sync up and only appear on the app instance that was running at the time, but if I delete conversations from a device the deletes RARELY stay deleted, NEVER sync across devices, and ALWAYS drive me nuts from the inconsistency.

Response: As of 11.13.x they have implemented a new sync engine on the backend to improve this, however, it is still in testing and only implemented on a limited percentage of users for A/B testing. Aaron: I’ve now been placed into that group and am being encouraged to try SMS Relay and sync again (which I intend to do over Easter weekend).

3. Speaking of deleting messages, there’s NEVER a scenario in which I shouldn’t be able to delete messages and/or message threads and count on them deleting across ALL my devices. Whether from PC/Tablet or Phone, I should ALWAYS be able to delete a message or messages and be able to confidently say “goodbye” to those messages.

Response: This has been submitted as feedback and will have its priority adjusted over the next few releases. Aaron: I admit this response is a bit vague, so I guess we’ll see how much urgency they place on it.

4. I don’t like how MMS messages require me to send a photo and text separately. On Messaging app, I can attach a photo to a message, and they will send/receive together.

Response: As with item 3, this one has been submitted as feedback and will have its priority adjusted. Again, we’ll see what happens.

5. Often times, messages sent/received in rapid succession will appear in the conversation out of sequence. So I may get a message, reply within 20-30 seconds, and consistently the reply will appear above the original message.

Response: A fix for this has been accepted and is in testing now with an expectation of inclusion with the 11.14.x release.

6. Any chance you can pass on the word to make sure that “enter” presses on Mobile should send the message? This would making using Skype on Mobile in Continuum mode MUCH easier.

Response: This has been submitted as feedback… yadda, yadda.

7. Contacts Handling: this is my biggest pet peeve, and it actually resulted in me throwing one phone across the room, swearing, and nearly giving on Skype forever. I know it’s changed somewhat in recent builds, but it’s still not good… IF I enable SMS relay, it is NOT acceptable to add phone contacts to Skype as Skype contacts… ESPECIALLY if those options are disabled! If I send a message or receive a message, it should either stay on device contacts only (if exists) or show only the phone number and not add to EITHER set of contacts. Period. Full stop. Also, if a contact is in my device, Skype should ALWAYS show the name of the contact rather than the phone number as it often does. Lastly, DELETE means delete… if I delete a contact from Skype or Device, it had better delete. Not dump it into  Deleted Items where Skype can randomly restore it as a device contact duplicate over and over and over… and YES, I can reproduce this very reliably with SMS Relay enabled. As soon as I turn it off, the duplication stops, although the deleted contacts stay in OWA Deleted Items (which is fine).

Response: “Re: Contact management – there are improvements made in 11.13.133 as well. Skype will now no longer try to make a copy of your local address book contacts. That version also supports People app linking of contacts and will group SMS conversations using that. The UI will continue to be tweaked. Coming next in 11.14, we’ll add some additional logic to try to remove some of those contacts that were copied over to Skype while keeping your conversations intact.” Aaron: I was told to understand, however, this relates specifically to Skype’s handling of your phone contacts when sending/receiving SMS/MMS messages and may not apply to other scenarios within Skype. I’m a little vague what those scenarios might be but will try to find out.

Conclusion

As I said above, I’ll be doing some testing this weekend in order to test the new sync engine and the contacts handling since I have a “known clean” configuration. I’ve also been instructed to enable Diagnostic Logging on all devices in order to submit more detailed information to my contact.

I have to say I’m impressed that they’re reaching out and becoming a bit more open. I’ve been told in the past by another Product Manager on the team, that traditionally the Skype team has been very… umm, restricted… in what they can say. That’s starting to change, and that’s a good thing! We can only hope that they’re embracing the same openness that the Windows team has with feedback and will work quickly to build an app we’re all proud to use! I know that I “hate” on Skype a lot, but the universal app is VERY good for voice and video now, IMO. I use it exclusively on my Surface Book and HP Elite x3, and I rarely worry about whether it will work or not.

About Aaron Hall

Hello! I'm Aaron Hall, aka GoodThings2Life. I earned his nickname working at General Electric in the late 90s, and I've held on to the name and used it universally ever since. I'm an IT guy with a career running 20 years now, and I specialize in Microsoft technologies as well as other business infrastructure hardware like Cisco networking, EMC storage, and VMware. My views on technology are based on a notion of minimalism. Although I'm impressed by all the wonderful things we can do with technology, I tend to pick and choose the things that really provide value to my life and not just gimmicky toys. As such, I'm not a huge "app guy" nor do I own a LOT of hardware at any given time. Currently, I'm a full time user of a Dell Latitude E7350 (at work), a Surface Book (at home), and an HP Elite x3 as my daily driver for phones. I also currently own a Lumia 650 as a "play/testing" device for Windows, and I also own a Nexus 5X that I keep around for the rare app need and to keep up with Microsoft apps and services on Android… both of these phones mostly sit on my desk collecting dust until I need them. My next planned purchases will be some combination of the next-gen Surface Pro (prefer Pro style over Book), and the next big "Windows Mobile" device… whether that's a Surface Phone or the next HP Elite device. There's also a possibility that I may dump a traditional PC and go exclusively "Windows 10 on ARM" for that next device if that comes to be something really amazing.

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