WhatsApp is working on adding free voice-calling to its text messaging app for iPhone and Android, which was recently acquired by Facebook for $19bn.
The WhatsApp founder and chief executive, Jan Koum, announced that the new Facebook company was working on voice calling to be introduced into the WhatsApp messaging app, initially on the iPhone and Android in the second quarter of the year, with BlackBerry and Windows Phone to be updated later.
“I grew up in Russia, we had a telephone line, but a load of our neighbours didn’t. It became a shared resource for the whole apartment complex. People would come and knock on the door and ask to call their family in another city,” said Koum at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona.
“We’re adding voice to WhatsApp so people can stay in touch with friends and loved ones no matter where they are in the world.”
Koum explained that this is the next stage in the evolution of the WhatsApp service, continuing its mission to connect users and keep people in touch. He also explained that the company had taken the speed and efficiency of text messaging to voice, saying that WhatsApp had the best voice product out there.
“We use the least amount of bandwidth out there, and have optimised the hell out of it. We’ve made sure the quality is there, though, just like the messaging functions of WhatsApp,” said Koum.
Koum also explained that there were no changes planned for the company post Facebook acquisition. He said that WhatsApp would be allowed to operate as a standalone company, maintaining its startup mentality with 55 employees, as staying nimble and flexible was of paramount importance for survival in the changing industry.