Following a preview at the start of June, Microsoft today began rolling out a redesigned Skype for iPhone app with a refined user interface and new capabilities such as chat bots, a Snapchat-like Highlights feature, message and in-call reactions, easier photo capture and more.
Aside from Microsoft’s own smart assistant Cortana, other chat bots now available or coming soon to Skype for iPhone include Gfycat, Giphy, MSN Weather, Bing, Polls, Expedia, Stubhub, BigOven, YouTube and Upworthy.
With in-call reactions, users can add live emoticons, live text and even real-time photos to an overlay that appears on their video and voice calls. Similarly, message reactions let you inform your chat participants how you feel by adding expressive reactions to your chats.
The new Home screen launches with your chat view, but you can now swipe left to get to the Skype camera or swipe right to show your Highlights. Speaking of which, Highlights is a new Snapchat-like feature that lets you share your day-to-day with friends and family on Skype while keeping up with what they are up to.
Your highlight is basically a collection of photos and videos that you can decorate with emojis and text. Only people who follow you on Skype can see your highlights.
You can also respond to others’ highlights by reacting with emoticons or even use them as a conversation starter. Unlike Snapchat, your published highlights remain live for a full week.
It remains to be seen if Highlights gains any traction given that every major chat app now has a similar feature of its own. Between Snapchat Stories, Facebook and Instagram Stories, I’m not sure I have the time to update Skype Highlights for my contacts on a daily basis.
Microsoft readily admits that Highlights is a Snapchat clone.
“There’s a new medium that has risen,” Amritansh Raghav, Corporate Vice President of Skype, said recently of Stories in a comment to TechCrunch. “When you think about this new way of interacting, we want that to be available also in this app.”
The new features are available in Skype for iPhone, but not in Skype for iPad. Skype for Mac and Windows computers will receive the new capabilities within the next few months.
According to Microsoft, a future version of Skype will integrate gaming features into video calls and users will have the ability to synchronize and watch streaming videos together.
Visit skype.com/new to learn more about the app’s latest feature additions.