Mobile messaging service WhatsApp has reportedly started rolling out the much awaited voice calling feature to users in India through invitation only. The feature is restricted to Android users with the latest version 2.11.508 of the messenger app.
WhatsApp is reportedly testing the feature and is rolling it out slowly. The new feature is accessible to users only after they receive an invitation from others using the feature. So even if you download the latest version of the app on your device, you will have to wait for someone to roll it out to you or call you. A reddit user first reported the new voice calling feature on his Nexus 5 device running the latest Android lollipop OS.
The screen shots posted by the Reddit users show a new Calls tab along with Chats and Contacts. Users who get the invitation for the feature will be able to see a standard calling interface, with the disconnect button above buttons for speaker, messages, and mute. The call interface is fairly simple, showing the name and WhatsApp image of the person you are calling.
He posted saying that, “I can’t seem to send invites to other people, the only thing I can ensure is that it works in India for people running Lollipop 5.0.x on a Nexus 5. Other Indians without the earlier combo don’t get it.”
The UI seen in the images is similar to the earlier screenshots released in December of the voice calling feature. WhatsApp has not announced the feature officially as yet, as the company may be looking for some feedback before launching a global release of the feature.
WhatsApp which has over 700 million users globally has been rolling out new features to further its reach. The messaging app recently announced WhatsApp through the desktop web browser and end to end chat encryption for Android users.
WhatsApp is evidently competing with the likes of Viber and Hike, which also offer voice calling feature. Voice calling through messaging apps have gained popularity over the years. However, the telecom operators in India have raised concerns over the voice calling feature, and have even sought revenue share. Read: Should OTT players like WhatsApp and Skype pay fee to telcos? TRAI begins discussions
Recently, Airtel announced charging users for voice calling over the Internet, a move that triggered a new debate on net neutrality in India. Later, the operator withheld the decision. Read: Airtel puts its proposed launch of VoIP packs on hold
Also read: 2015 to be crucial for telecom sector