Some question whether WhatsApp will be poised to become the next Skype. We’ve noted recently that Skype has been a tremendous benefit to small business owners who are saving thousands on international calls each year.
Microsoft’s instant messaging service allows video calls to be made for free between users. And now, it appears there may be another similar service on the horizon.
WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum announced recently that a voice messaging feature will be added to the already popular SMS app. The service is available on all manufacturers’ smartphones. Koum told those gathered at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona that this feature could be added by the second half of 2014 on all smartphones. Android and iOS users will see the feature added sooner, according to an Engadget report.
It’s unclear how voice messaging will be incorporated into WhatsApp. The company recently added a voice texting feature (pictured above). It allows users to send small voice messages as if they were text messages. So it will surely be something different than that.
If the new WhatsApp voice feature is more like Skype, it will likely be a major competitor. This will especially be true if its cost remains very low. WhatsApp has 330 million active daily users, according to the company. And it probably stands to gain millions more when a $19 billion acquisition by Facebook, announced recently, is finalized.
On the official WhatsApp blog, Koum recently explained that the merger with Facebook will not change the company’s basic mission. That is to provide inexpensive communication between users no matter where they are on the planet:
“There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product.”
That raises the question of whether WhatsApp will remain just as inexpensive after the new service is fully integrated. Right now, users can take advantage of the service free for the first year. After that, users are charged $0.99 cents per year to continue using it.
I think that this is the perfect time to position themselves that way. After all, there are already too many communication apps (there’s Line, KakaoTalk, Viber and others). This will give users more of a reason to go back to WhatsApp.
I agree, Aira, there are way too many of these apps out there. And the trouble is ensuring that your friends and other contacts have it installed so you can enjoy all the features.