WhatsApp Begins Voice Calling Feature
4 February 2015
WhatsApp is a popular messaging service that many people use in lieu of SMS messaging. Recently, WhatsApp began gradually rolling out a new VoIP feature that will allow users in India to engage in voice calling over the internet. A Reddit user by the name of "pradnesh07" was able to grab a copy of the latest WhatsApp build, and screenshots of the new voice-calling feature were almost instantaneously released online.
What is VoIP?
VoIP is a popular term used to describe the communication between two telephone devices over an internet connection. More simply, it's a service that allows users to call others over the internet. Users use a wide range of devices, apps, and phones to make VoIP calls.
When a traditional phone system makes a phone call to another traditional phone system, the caller's voice is converted to analog signals and sent to the recipient. The recipient's phone analyzes the signals and plays them back through their headset.
On the other hand, a phone call made from a VoIP app/phone to another VoIP app/phone works a bit differently. When the caller makes a phone call to another user, their voice is converted into data and sent electronically to the other caller. When received, the data is analyzed and played to the other user via the device or phone. VoIP calls are made via VoIP service providers, such as WhatsApp. In essence, the conversation is hosted on a server somewhere, similarly to the way websites and data are hosted online.
WhatsApp Pairing with VoIP Could Lead to Great Changes
As it stands, WhatsApp currently holds the title as the most popularly used app for instant messaging in the world. 700 million users are active on the instant messaging service, and that number seems to only continue growing in size. Due to its incredible amount of success, Facebook acquired WhatsApp in October of 2014 for $22 billion. At the time of acquisition, Facebook released a statement that it didn't plan on making any changes to the popular messaging app for quite a long time.
In the past, WhatsApp had received heavy criticism from its users about its lack of voice calling features. Despite its evident success, the missing feature from the messaging app had placed it below the ranks of other fully-featured messaging services on the market.
At the 2014 Mobile World Congress, Jan Koum of WhatsApp had made an announcement about adding voice calling features to the app. This announcement was highly anticipated by users, and many had predicted that Koum would make a significant announcement of some sort at the time of the event. It was initially estimated by Koum that the features would begin to roll out in the second quarter of 2014.
It's predicted that the new voice calling feature will pit WhatsApp directly against other similar services such as Viber and Skype. The business model being used for the current build enables users to take advantage of voice calling at no cost for one year. After the complimentary year ends, users will pay $1 per year for voice calling usage. In the past, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has made comments about not being sure exactly how WhatsApp will be monetized on a shorter term. It's predicted that once more users sign up for WhatsApp, the rate for voice calling service will rise.
What's Happening Now with the Rollout?
The voice calling feature is slowly being launched, and there has been no official announcement made yet from WhatsApp. Koum has hinted in the past that the app will have its voice calling feature entirely rolled by the summer of 2015, however this estimation was just a guess. As it stands, the current build of the software is available to users on an invite-only basis. Particularly, a user cannot use the feature or turn it on unless another user that already has voice calling makes a call to them.
A spokesperson speaking for the popular messaging app told media that a beta test for the new build was being rolled out to a small group of people, and that there was no more information available. It's predicted that the messaging service won't spend a long while in beta testing before the feature is available to everyone.
In the screenshots that have been released by beta users, a new tab has been added to the WhatsApp interfaces that reads, "Calls." When selected, a new interface appears that allows users to begin making VoIP calls to their contacts. In one screenshot, a newly installed build showcases the "Calls" interface with a blank log that reads, "To start calling contacts who have WhatsApp, tap the "New call" icon at the top of your screen." Once a call has been initiated, the interface for the call in progress appears very similarly to a traditional smartphone telephone interface. The contact's photo is shown, and a green progress bar at the top gives information about what is happening with the call. A large, red "End Call" button is situated toward the bottom of the screen.
These screenshots were recently released on Reddit by user, "pradnesh07." The user has revealed his real name to be Pradnesh Patil.
Once WhatsApp has given VoIP functionality to the entire public, it will be interesting to see how many users make the switch from their current apps, programs, or devices. Only time will tell whether or not the messaging service giant will continue to grow in strength as it adds new features and functionality.
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