With voice calls, WhatsApp can tap new growth

Internet-enabled calls may be available first on Android and iOS

Popular messaging app WhatsApp is joining Facebook’s team.

Popular messaging app WhatsApp is joining Facebook’s team.

WhatsApp's voice calling service, planned for later this year to augment its hot text-message offering, could yield an influx of customers and strengthen the service's already firm standing in mobile messaging.

WhatsApp will offer Internet-based voice calling by the end of June, CEO Jan Koum said Monday during a speech at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona, according to news reports. The service is expected to be available first on Google's Android and Apple's iOS mobile systems, with rollouts coming later to other platforms such as Windows Phone and BlackBerry, said a report in The New York Times.

WhatsApp is already a leading player in a crowded market of messaging apps that also includes KakaoTalk of South Korea and Viber of Cyprus. The service has a huge user base: 450 million monthly active users, according to the company. But adding free voice calls could drive that number higher if enough people decided to shun traditional phone carriers in favor of the Internet.

The expansion could, in turn, bring new users to Facebook, which announced last week that it was acquiring the five-year-old company for up to US$19 billion.

As it works now, WhatsApp's service lets people use their Internet data plans to send messages to each other as an alternative to paying a carrier such as AT&T or Verizon for SMS (Short Message Service) texting. It's likely that voice calling would work the same way. WhatsApp is free to download and use for the first year; after that, users can extend their subscription for $0.99 per year, according to the company's website.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sees WhatsApp as a critical element in Facebook's pursuit of connecting more people around the globe. During a keynote speech at the conference following the WhatsApp announcement, the Facebook chief said that the mobile messaging app was actually worth more than what Facebook paid for it.

WhatsApp's revenue may not be in line with the price Facebook paid, Zuckerberg said. But WhatsApp may also be one of the few services on the path to having 1 billion-plus users, Zuckerberg said, and that's what makes it valuable.

It's unclear what Facebook's plans are for further monetizing WhatsApp's service. Since the acquisition, both Zuckerberg and Koum have sought to quiet rumors they might use ads to make more money from WhatsApp.

Zuckerberg instead said on Monday that Facebook could include WhatsApp as part of free or cheap Internet access in developing areas of the world, under Facebook's Internet.org project.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags social mediamobileinternetFacebooksocial networkingmobile applicationsInternet-based applications and servicesTelephony/conferencingWhatsAppViberKako

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?