Whatsapp is by far the most popular instant messaging app available in the market. With over 700 million active users, it has given a substantial hit to the SMS revenues of mobile operators. Now it has launched the much-awaited voice calling feature through its newest update, which enables the ability to make VoIP calls using cellular data or WiFi connection at no added cost.
There have been other apps like Viber and Skype that have been offering voice calling since a long time but did not pose so much of a threat to telecom operators due to lack of mass scale uptake. Telecom major Bharti Airtel had announced that it will be launching dedicated VoIP data pack in addition to its existing data packs to make up for the loss of revenue through voice. But had to retract the differential charging proposal due to large scale protest on social media on grounds of net neutrality.
Whatsapp had been testing this feature for some time now with a closed group of users that had VoIP calling activated. The invite window where one user having the feature could invite another user was limited to a few hours the last time it was rolled out in a phased manner. This time around it appears to be a widespread rollout though it is still dependant on invitation. Whatsapp was bought over by Facebook which has its own messaging platform called ‘messenger’ which also offers VoIP calling, but Facebook has shown no intention of merging the two platforms. Also, whatsapp has a strong No-Ad policy and has a low annual fee equivalent to 1$ but till now it has only been giving extensions in validity for free to Indian subscribers without any deactivations.
How to activate voice calling in whatsapp?
- Ensure you are on the latest version of Whatsapp
- Highest version in the app store is 2.11.528 and on whatsapp website it is 2.11.531 also if you use third party app store Mobogenie you can get app version 2.12.5
- After updating to the latest version you need to receive a call from another user who has the calling feature active on his phone. The phone call acts as an invitation.
- After disconnecting the call you need to close and reopen WhatsApp and you will see the changed user interface.
- The new UI adds a calls tab to the left of the chats app and adds a phone icon to the top right side of the chat window which can be clicked to initiate VoIP call.
Most users in India do not have a credit card which is why they cannot pay for the subscription of WhatsApp if it were to start charging, but as the government may regularise the OTT players to create a uniform playing field between mobile operators and them, they may look at tying up with operators for carrier bundled billing for these services.