Universal phone numbers: Make phone calls with all your devices

Here you choose the phone number that people can call you on whichever device you use to run Skype.

You can choose to associate it with any of several countries, but if you pick an Australian number it means that if you go overseas, anyone who calls you on that number from Australia will pay local Australian call rates.

Alternatively, if you have lots of Americans calling you, you may want to choose a US number so they pay local call rates when they call you.

Assuming you select an Australian-based number, you'll be asked the state you want to associate it with.

Just like the real telephone networks, Skype offers different area codes for different cities: Melbourne is given 039, for instance, and Sydney 028.

2. Choose a number

You're then asked to suggest the actual number combination you want, or you can choose from a selection of suggested phone numbers.

We picked one that looked like a traditional landline phone number, feeling it would be more reassuring for people ringing us.

3. Subscribe

Once you've chosen the Skype number, you then take out a subscription to it.

To be clear, although Skype calls to other Skype users are free, if you want your own personal phone number for non-Skype users to call you on, or to call them, you need to subscribe to the number and pay for it.

It's like signing up to a telephone number from a standard Telco.

When signing up, you have the option of buying a subscription for three months for $24 or 12 months for $80. In our case, we chose a 12-month subscription.

With your new Skype number, no matter where you are (whether in Australia or overseas), you can receive calls from anyone on any of your devices, and make a call to anyone on the public telephone network.

Your callers can also leave you a message, just as they would with any standard telephone service, and you can set up Skype to send you an email alert when you get a phone message.

You can also have the call to your new Skype number forwarded to a standard phone number.

A word of warning: when you're running the Skype app on several devices (on anything from a tablet to a laptop and even a smart TV) an incoming call to your Skype number will make all of them ring at the same time.

This can be a bit disconcerting, but once you've answered the call on one device, the ringing stops on all the others.

4. Skype credit

The important thing to realise is that although you've subscribed to a Skype number and people can now call you on your devices, you still need Skype credit to make phone calls to people with landline or mobile phone numbers.

When calling or texting on mobile phones, Skype works out to be cheaper than standard call rates.

5. Skype vs. a real number

The quality of calls via Skype is surprisingly good on devices including the iPhone, iPad and a host of Android phones and tablets.

You certainly don't feel like you're getting poorer-quality voice and on some platforms such as Windows 8 phones, Skype calls are spectacularly good.

One wonders whether the fact that Microsoft owns Skype and Windows Phone 8, and is in partnership with Nokia, makes a difference to the effort that goes into providing good call quality.

Caller ID

The one disappointment in using a Skype number is that when you call someone, there's no guarantee they can see what number is calling.

Several times we've called landlines or other mobiles with Skype and those receiving the call couldn't tell who was calling, although caller ID worked on some other numbers.

There seem to be no clear rules as to when caller ID will work.