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Mobile Apps

Skype for iOS is looking for a few good users

As it rolls out a new version of Skype for iPhone, Microsoft announces it's recruiting users to test out pre-release versions.

Skype wants the public's help to improve the product. Nicole Cozma/CNET

Microsoft wants your help making Skype work better on your iOS device.

As it rolled out a new version of Skype for iPhone Wednesday, the company invited people who'd like to provide feedback on Skype for iOS to join a new pre-release program. Those who do will get access to early versions of Skype before they're released to the public in return for offering your comments and criticisms. You can learn more about the program via its webpage.

Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011. The popular VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) service lets people make voice and video calls and chat with other users. You can also make group video calls and share your screen and files with other people. Certain features are free, such as the ability to call other Skype users. Other features require a subscription, such as the ability to call cell phones and landlines. Skype also competes in the corporate environment with a business specific product.

Microsoft updates Skype with new features, enhancements and bug fixes on a fairly regular basis. So the company has been delivering on a promise it made of improving the service and the mobile app versions. But users have complained in the past of certain bugs and missing features. Microsoft's goal is to get feedback on both the good and the bad aspects of new versions before they hit a wider audience.

"We want you to shape the experience -- so your feedback is important to us," the Skype team said on the program's welcome post. "The experience should be straightforward, 'easy as pie' -- you shouldn't have to overly think about how to do it. If it is anything more than that, let us know and we'll strive to make you experience the best possible!"

Meanwhile, Microsoft is touting some user-interface improvements -- such as a cool dialer feature -- in its new Skype for iPhone version 5.9. Now, when you start dialing a number, the app will suggest people from your contacts lists who have the first few digits of that number. So rather than typing the entire number, you can simply select the right contact from your list to make your call.

A new chat picker lets you more quickly call or message people without having to fire up your contacts lists. Just tap the chat icon and choose the person you wish to contact.