REVIEW & TIPS: At last an automatic(!) Skype call recorder!

UPDATE (07/13/2012):  1. the new version stores its recordings in the standard Documents directory of the stock Skype app.

2. I've posted a lot of information on the Bluetooth compliance of the recorder HERE. The article also shows how you can make the in/output file pairs into stereo files with separate left/right channels keeping the in/out (or out/in) streams.

3. Unfortunately, in the last two months, there has still no been a bugifx for the iPad version of Skype.

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UPDATE (05/20/2012): version 1.1 out with some stability bugfixes. Remember to back up your recordings as the Cydia updater will delete them!

Unfortunately, the new version still doesn't support the iPad-specific Skype version (and the developer still hasn't answered my mail).

Original article follows:

Some weeks ago, I've reported on Ryan Petrich's excellent “Display Recorder”. With that app, it's possible to record both audio and video (!) of a Skype call. Unfortunately, the developer (at least back then) refused to make a  Skype-specific version of the app (or to update it to make it possible to auto-record calls). In this article, I not only review it, but also provide a lot of usage & troubleshooting tips and tricks never ever published by anyone before.

Now, automatic Skype recording has become possible. Unfortunately, “only” with sound, but at least it works flawlessly. (And, also on slower hardware. I've thoroughly tested the voice recordings of the new recorder on a, by today's standard, outdated and slow iPhone 3GS and haven't found any evidence of lack of CPU power. This wasn't the case with Display Recorder, which, when recording a Skype call, has resulted in a major slowdown in the video channel on even A4 CPU's and are, consequently, pretty much useless on the previous-generation CPU's of the 3GS and the 3rd-generation iPod touch.)

The application, unfortunately, is only available for jailbroken devices for all 4.x-5.x iOS versions. (Unfortunately, it seems you need to jailbreak to get the same or similar functionality existing on much more open platforms like Symbian or Android for years without, on those platforms, the need for any hacking.) I've tested it on an iPhone 3GS running iOS 4.2.1, an iPad 2 running on iOS 5.0.1 and a 4th-gen iPod touch running on iOS 5.1. I've tested four different versions of Skype for compatibility tests: 3.7.40 (same version number for both the iPhone- and iPad-specific build; this still, unlike the current one, runs on pre-4.3 devices like my iPhone 3GS running 4.2.1 and was the current one some two months ago), the latest 4.0.1303 (iPhone version) and 4.0.1264 (iPad version).

1. Getting

The app is available on the ModMyi Cydia repository (which is already in the standard repo list of Cydia so nothing needs to be added) for $6.99. There's no trial version but, if you do read the “Problems” section below and don't try to use it with iPod touches or iPads running the  iPad-specific version of Skype (but install and use the iPhone version on your iPad), you can be pretty sure it'll work on your iPhone / iPad.

(as usual, click the thumbnail to get the full-sized screenshot!)

After installation, the app puts an icon on the home screen (Springboard). Via that, you can access the list of recorded files for playback (however, before you do play them back for the first time, read the section “Audio echo” below, under “Problems”) and can also disable auto-recording. A screenshot of the former (the second tab, “Settings”, only has one switch so I don't provide a separate screenshot of it):

After you've finished a Skype call, the recording will appear in this list. (But, again, before listening to them in here, prefer at least saving the original files from the file system if there's a chance the merged recording will have too much echo – see the already-mentioned “Audio echo” section below!)

2. Problems

The problems of the current (initial, 1.0) version are as follows. Note that I've mailed the developer several times today; hope he answers soon and releases an enhanced / bugfixed version. In the meantime, my remarks and warnings apply.

2.1 Absolutely no support for the iPad-specific version!

Currently, as of version 1.0.0, “iPad for Skype” isn't supported at all. You MUST install the small-screen (iPhone) version if you plan to record calls. (I've tested this with both the current (released on 04/30), 4.0.1264, and the previous, 3.7.40 versions. Neither worked.)

2.1.1 The two (iPhone + iPad) versions co-existing on the same iPad

For text messaging / chatting or for calls you don't want / need to record, you can still use the iPad-optimized version. Outgoing calls started from either versions will not have any effect on the other, also-installed one.

You can even keep both running on your iPad waiting for incoming calls. Then, in my tests, always the iPad version was invoked first and the incoming call notification for the iPhone version only arrived later.

If, in this case, you do not want to record your call, just accept the first  notification. When the iPad version of Skype is shown, and the notification for the iPhone version is displayed, just tap it to get into the iPhone version. It won't cause any problems as the iPhone version will hang up at once, while the iPad call (to which you can quickly return by just tapping the now-red, “Recording” status bar at the top of the screen) will remain working.

If, on the other hand, you want to answer the incoming call with the iPhone version, just wait without tapping the first incoming call notification. When the second arrives (this time, this will invoke the iPhone version), you can pull down the  notification list from the top of the screen and select the uppermost (that is, the one that came later) notification from the list.

Again, this all only applies to the case when (regularly) the iPad version is invoked first. If the case is the opposite, then, the above description should still be OK if you just swap “iPad version” and “iPhone version” in it.

2.2 No support for the iPod touch

Unfortunately, it seems the app doesn't work on the iPod touch at all. (Tested it on the 4th-gen iPod touch running on iOS 5.1.)

2.3 Audio echo

By default, the recorder saves its recordings separately for the audio recorded by the local mike (recording-input-x.caf) and received from the other party (recording-output-x.caf). An example of the two files (mike; incoming) is HERE and HERE, respectively.

If you tap any record in the inner filelist of the app, the two files will be combined into one and the originals deleted. This may result in very bad echoing. This can be clearly heard even in the above recording (of which I've also provided the by-app combined version HERE.)

Unfortunately, I've encountered far worse, almost-unintelligible results of mixing. An example recording, with very heavy echo (the speaker was turned way up) is HERE. (If you can't understand Finnish, just listen to the echo.)

All in all, if you want the absolutely best audio quality for, for example, archiving purposes, make sure you back up the .caf files from /Applications/ before listening to them from inside the app. (You can back up even without a desktop computer; with, for example, the truly excellent file handler “iFile”, also available from Cydia. Let me know in the comment section if you don't know how it can be used to quickly duplicate files / directories.)

3. Verdict

If you can live with the restrictions above and don't be afraid of losing the money because of jailbreaking becoming impossible with future iOS versions, an excellent buy.

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<p>Werner Ruotsalainen is an iOS and Java programming lecturer who is well-versed in programming, hacking, operating systems, and programming languages. Werner tries to generate unique articles on subjects not widely discussed. Some of his articles are highly technical and are intended for other programmers and coders.</p>
<p>Werner also is interested in photography and videography. He is a frequent contributor to not only mobile and computing publications, but also photo and video forums. He loves swimming, skiing, going to the gym, and using his iPads. English is one of several languages he speaks.</p>