WhatsApp rolls out voice calls for Android, iOS coming soon
Users of WhatsApp, the hugely popular mobile messaging service bought last year by Facebook for US$22 billion, will soon be able to make phone calls through the app.
Android users who update to the latest version of the app will see a new "Calls" tab, from which they can connect with other users running the latest version.
Speaking at Facebook's recent F8 conference, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton said the feature will also roll out to iOS users in the coming weeks.
Acton, speaking on a panel with Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and head of Facebook Messenger David Marcus, said that WhatsApp had spent the last year refining the voice call feature before launching it on Android.
WhatsApp is notoriously slow when it comes to adding new features, prefering to focus on speed and reliability. Earlier this month, Facebook announced a major new expansion for its Messenger platform, adding apps and games to bring it in line with Asian competitors WeChat and Line.
WhatsApp is the largest messenger platform in the world, claiming more than 700 million monthly active users, followed closely by Facebook Messenger, with 600 million. It has even overtaken text messaging, with around 30 billion messages sent over WhatsApp every day, compared to 20 billion over SMS.
According to statistics released by the company, it has a 71 per cent market share in Hong Kong, compared to less than 5 per cent in China, where Tencent's WeChat mobile messaging app is dominant.
WeChat has long allowed users to make voice calls on the app, as well as send short recorded messages.
The move will come as a blow to traditional telecommunications carriers, who have already complained of messaging apps (which use WiFi or mobile internet to transmit voice and messages) cutting into revenue from SMS services.