Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) unit WhatsApp is finally launching voice calling service for its Android users. An updated version of the application is now available via Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Play and the company has promised to bring the feature to Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS shortly.
The new function adds a "calls" tab to the app in addition to chats and contacts. However, the app only lets users make calls to other users who have WhatsApp.
WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum said in October 2014 the over-the-top messaging app would launch voice calling services in the first quarter of 2015. Today is the last day of the first quarter. The company, which Facebook acquired last fall for $21.8 billion, had initially planned to launch voice calling in the second quarter of 2014.
In October, Koum noted that WhatsApp was working through several technical issues related to the calling service, including the fact that the app did not have access to certain phone microphones, which made noise cancellation more difficult. He also said that the firm was trying to work through how the service would operate in situations where data coverage is poor, noting that many WhatsApp users in emerging markets are still using 2G EDGE coverage.
Last week at Facebook's F8 developers conference, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton said that voice calling on WhatsApp will be coming to iOS in a "couple weeks," and then later clarified the timeline to "several" weeks.
WhatsApp currently has more than one billion installations on Android alone, and the company revealed in January that it has 700 million active users sending 30 billion messages per day. Adding voice was the next logical step for WhatsApp as a communications platform, allowing it to compete more directly with Skype, Viber, Line and other OTT messaging apps that provide voice calling.
Interestingly, WhatsApp owner Facebook already provides voice calling on its Messenger app.
- see this Play Store link
- see this The Verge article
- see this TheNextWeb article
- see this VentureBeat article
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