Skype 5.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 002)Skype 5.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)

Microsoft-owned Skype is putting finishing touches on a major new version of its free iPhone messaging and VoIP calling software. The software giant has just announced some of the new features making their way to the upcoming 5.0 iPhone release soon and boy are we excited.

The sleeker UI is only part of the story because Skype 5.0 focuses on speed. In fact, in redesigning the app developers have rewritten much of the code with iOS in mind.

As a result, Skype 5.0 for iPhone is up to five times faster than before. Additional tidbits and a cool promo video can be found right after the jump…

The new design certainly feels more in line with the overall minimalist design aesthetic of iOS 7. For the most part, Skype 5.0 gets rid of the clutter and focuses on large thumbnails and buttons, crisp typography and ease to grasp options.

It’s interesting that they’ve removed the toolbar at the bottom and adopted Windows Phone swipe gesture to navigate between your contacts list, recent contacts and favorites.

Check out the promo video.

Skype notes:

We’ve been working to provide a coherent experience no matter what device you use.  Skype 5.0 for iPhone shares a consistent look and feel with the Windows Phone and Android apps, while still optimizing for iOS’s unique strengths.

Other goodies, according to the company: in-app notification banners for new messages, a gesture to swipe quickly between multiple conversations, quick action buttons at the bottom (voice calling, video calling, options), a brand new Favorites tab and more.

Other improvements include a more integrated group chatting with offline sending/receiving capability and improved syncing of read/unread notifications across devices.

Skype 5.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 004)Skype 5.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 003)

Microsoft detailed headline new features:

• Faster: You’ll notice the effort we’ve put into this overhaul as soon as you launch Skype 5.0 for iPhone. The new version is over 5 times faster than the old version.

• Smoother: As you swipe from conversations through to your favorites and then back to your contacts lists, you’ll notice how smooth scrolling and transitioning from screen to screen is – with delightful little pops and animations punctuating them. All without degrading the performance and battery improvements we worked so hard to achieve.

• More Integrated: Now, iPhone users can start group chats from the hub. And when you send messages or photos, it doesn’t matter if the recipient is offline. Everyone will see your message as soon as they are available again.

• Smarter: We know our users are using Skype on multiple devices, and we want to make sure your Skype notifications keep pace with your conversations, no matter where they happen. Now, as you read your messages on your PC, tablet, Xbox and so on, those conversations will be marked as read (or unread if new messages come in) on your iPhone too.

Skype 5.0 for iPhone is arriving next week and we’ll make sure to keep you in the loop and tell you all about it when the updated build surfaces in the App Store. They’ll be delivering a new iPad version soon.

The current Skype version 4.17.3 can be downloaded free in the App Store in two flavors: one is for the iPhone and iPod touch and the other is an iPad-only binary.

Some screenshots via Mark Gurman.