Zynga is unveiling a new version of Words With Friends for mobile users. The effort is part of a strategy to win back consumers on mobile and make sure that competitors don’t eat away at one of its biggest audiences for a social game.

Words With Friends on a smartphone

Above: Words With Friends on a smartphone.

Image Credit: Zynga

Zynga’s Words With Friends team has been toiling on the redesign under direction of new chief executive Don Mattrick (see our interview) and new chief operating officer Clive Downie. The developer wants to win back market share in mobile titles and keep competitors at bay. Hence, Zynga is OK with doing a major update on one of the world’s most successful game franchises.

Words With Friends debuted in 2009, and it is the No. 1 free game of all time, according to Zynga. The company says individuals play it forĀ 7.5 billion minutes a month, and 55 million matches are going on at any one time. It is the sixth most-downloaded app of all time on Apple’s iTunes App Store.

Abhinav Agrawal, general manager of the Words With Friends series, said in an interview with GamesBeat at Zynga’s headquarters that the new version has dynamic features that players have been asking for. They include more prominent pictures of players and better user profiles so that you always know who you’re playing against in a visual way.

“The picture helps make it more social,” Agrawal said.

The title also has a dictionary, which was the most-requested feature. The dictionary helps you build your vocabulary with definitions and audio pronunciations, and it lets you check the word your opponent just used on you. People play the word “qi” 750,000 times a day. So now you can look it up and see how to pronounce it.

Analytics is one of Zynga’s strong points. And now the company is releasing stats that surface details such as your win/loss streak, your highest scoring words, and your best moves. You can see which word changed the tide of a match in someone’s favor.

The animations and sounds are also beefier.

“This game has stood the test of time against competition,” Agrawal said. “People take the competition very seriously.”

Because the franchise has such diehard fans, Zynga kept a lot of things the same, such as the basic, colorful graphics. The iOS, Android, and desktop versions all have the same consistent look and feel. On the iPad, you can glance at several games in the works at a time.

The new version will debut sometime in the second quarter on mobile devices. The experience will still feature ads. The new version will carry over your current games, opponents, and your entire game history.

“We want the upgrade to be seamless,” Agrawal said.