When Facebook (News - Alert) acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion last week, it definitely turned some heads. While some were quite surprised by the move, however, there have been signs that the social network wanted to snag WhatsApp for some time. Regardless, when a deal of this magnitude goes down, big changes are sure to follow. Most directly, WhatsApp users should expect the messaging app to receive radical new features in the coming months.
Indeed, WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum stated publicly at Mobile World Congress (News - Alert) that the app will be introducing free voice calling “within months.” He also added that WhatsApp’s growth has not been negatively affected by the Facebook acquisition; on the contrary, the OTT texting service gained 15 million active users per month. It’s very likely that this growth will continue unabated as long as the WhatsApp team keeps new features coming.
According to Koum, voice functionality should hit WhatsApp sometime in the second quarter of this year — at least for Android (News - Alert) and iOS users. The two most popular mobile platforms should receive the new feature first, followed by Windows Phone and BlackBerry later on.
“We want to make sure people always have the ability to stay in touch and call their friends and family, and their loved ones, and do it easily and affordably,” Koum said in a statement. “We think we have the best voice product out there. We use the least amount of bandwidth, and we optimise the hell out of it. The same values of the leading messaging platform in the world will be the same on voice. We’re going to focus on simplicity and we will make sure the same gold standard will be applied.”
For WhatsApp and Facebook, the addition of voice is a definite positive move. However, for mobile operators, it represents possibly the biggest threat yet to their revenue. After all, WhatsApp boasts nearly half a million monthly users currently; that’s half a million people who could potentially stop using traditional calling altogether.
Edited by Alisen Downey
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