With 465-million users, WhatsApp announces it’s going into voice calls

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Not content with basically murdering SMS, it seems the WhatsApp team is setting its sights on the next level: voice. Speaking at Mobile World Congress today, founder and CEO Jan Koum announced that his hit messaging app would soon begin rolling out voice services to its suite of mobile apps. Sorry, telcos.

Koum also took the opportunity to give some more insights into WhatsApp’s rocketing growth — the messaging app now serves 465-million users a month, of which 330-million chat everyday. That is more than 65-million monthly active users more than it had in December, and 15-million more than last Thursday, when the mobile startup announced it would be acquired by Facebook for US$19-billion in cash and stock.

While WhatsApp has the massive user base, it is relatively late to the party when it comes to voice. While users have been able to record and send voice notes since August last year, full-on audio conversations haven’t been an option before. However, the new move puts WhatsApp directly in the path of competing cross-platform apps like Skype and BBM (as well as emerging markets giants like Line and KakaoTalk), which have had the functionality for a while.

But apparently the WhatsApp team has been focusing on perfecting the technology and working out how to make voice calls as light on data as possible. “We use the least amount of bandwidth and we use the hell out of it,” Koum said. “We will focus on simplicity.” He also shot down suggestions that the popular app would become heavily influenced by Facebook’s wishes, reiterating his promise when the deal was announced that nothing would change for users. “There are no planned changes and we will continue to do what we set out to do, even after the acquisition closes,” he said.

According to TechCrunch, voice calls will begin rolling out to Android and iOS users sometime between April and June this year, followed by an update for Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices.

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