Microsoft Announces A Skype For iOS Testing Program

In addition to rolling out an updated version of the Skype for iPhone mobile application this morning, Microsoft also announced the launch of a new testing program for Skype iOS users who are willing to download, use and give feedback on pre-release versions of the mobile calling and chatting software. Participants in the program need to be 18 years old or older, plus have a valid email address, Skype account or Microsoft Account, the company says.

Interested parties are asked to apply on this page if they want to join. From the sounds of things, users will also be asked to sign an NDA when joining the program.

Says Microsoft, “we don’t want to spill the beans to anyone outside of this program and so please keep it a secret!” (Did I mention we have an anonymous tips line here at TechCrunch? Okay, good.)

The page also offers a few more details about what will be involved in testing the new versions. Generally, it’s just about providing feedback about the experience or pointing out things that don’t “look right,” says Microsoft, as well as reporting bugs like choppy video, out-of-sync audio, visual glitches and more.

There’s a short survey you’ll have to fill out to start the registration process which asks you for basic information like name, country of residence, industry and employer. After being approved, users will received an updated, early access version the iOS Skype app to test out.

It’s not unusual for tech companies to publicly offer users the ability to test pre-release apps. Others, including Twitter and Facebook, have in the past launched their own beta programs online for early access to their own software, for example. These programs can help companies test new features and changes ahead of making them available to a wider audience, while also helping them to better understand which features resonate with users and which don’t before having to commit to a public launch.

In addition to news of the testing program, Microsoft also announced that Skype for iPhone was updated with a few minor changes today, including a visual refresh to the dial pad and chat picker. The former now suggests contacts with matching phone numbers as you type, and the chat picker now makes starting conversations easier by offering a phone and video button at the top of the screen to let you more quickly start your call.