Facebook’s WhatsApp seems to be on course to launch a major attack on the video calling services offered by Skype, Google Hangouts and Viber.
The rumors about an upcoming WhatsApp video calling feature started showing up right after Christmas and as of now, they are getting even hotter. At the moment, the web is dominated by leaks of photos of a user making a WhatsApp video call using an iPhone. News about the much-awaited feature was broken by a German site known as Macerkopf and according to the site; the new feature is available on WhatsApp for iOS.
As mentioned earlier, the news surrounding the release of a new version of WhatsApp is still unconfirmed and as such, it would be advisable to take it with a grain of salt in the eye. Nonetheless, these reports point towards a January 2016 release date.
WhatsApp 188.8.131.52 for iOS has enabled video calling feature
WhatsApp was expected to unveil the video calling feature sometimes later in 2015 after it had released the voice calling feature. However, this did not materialize and according to speculations, the feature is currently being tested on version 184.108.40.206 on iOS.
In addition to the new video calling feature that the new version brings, reports suggest that there is also a new multi-tab UI that is aimed at giving the chat app an edge over its rival messaging apps such as Google Hangouts and Viber. What the new feature brings into the play is the ability to let users of the app switch easily between many tabs with no need of going back to the main screen. With this function, using WhatsApp will only but get more convenient as well as user-friendlier.
When Facebook bought WhatsApp for a reported fee of $22 billion back in February 2014, the app had just about 450 million users. Since then, the app has added more than double this figure and now it is the leading provider of free instant messaging services across the globe. The new features are only looking to strengthen the position of the chat in the IM market.
WhatsApp to compete directly with Skype, Viber and Google Hangouts
The new video calling feature on WhatsApp means that the app now joins the likes of Skype, Viber and Google Hangouts in offering users with free video calling services. Now, Skype is a market leader and toppling it will take WhatsApp a lot before achieving this feat.
One advantage WhatsApp has over Skype and other messaging apps is its massive user base. However, the fact that this user base is heavy in developing countries where there is poor internet infrastructure might be a stumbling block for the Facebook’s efforts of introducing the video calling feature on the most popular chat app.
Video calls need more bandwidth and a stable internet, neither of which can be guaranteed to developing nations where WhatsApp dominates. However, in areas where there is the stable internet, and much better infrastructure, Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime and other players have already grabbed the market, which makes it very difficult for WhatsApp to break quickly into the market.
It will be interesting to see how WhatsApp finds a solution to this problem; maybe it will take advantage of the same Low data usage feature it introduced to help regulate usage of data during WhatsApp calls.