When Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook acquired mobile-messaging application WhatsApp last year for a mind-boggling US$22 billion, many analysts thought Mark was a sucker. After all, WhatsApp was just a startup that generated a pathetic revenue of merely US$10.2 million. Even though WhatsApp had 400 million active users back then, it generated less than 3 cents in revenue for each user as of end of 2013.
In case you missed the magic-word, that was only revenue, not profit. And WhatsApp actually made a net loss of US$138 million for 2013. Still, Mr Zuckerberg crazily paid US$55 per user during the acquisition. The Facebook CEO said he wasn’t in a rush to make money from WhatsApp, until it reach 1-billion users. As of January this year, WhatsApp user base has grown to a cool 700 million active users.
Obviously, WhatsApp is the leader in global mobile messenger market share, but the rest of the competitors are catching up fast. Players such as WeChat, Skype, Viber and LINE are aggressively promoting their products. If one cares to look at the monthly active users of all the mobile messaging players, it’s easier to understand why Facebook had paid such a huge valuation for WhatsApp.
Here’s the reason, in case you’re still wondering. Soon, mobile messaging apps – WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Skype, etc – will overtake social networks such as Instagram, Twitter and even Facebook. Interestingly, although WhatsApp is the leader in mobile messaging, there was one thing it couldn’t do as compared to Skype or Viber, until now. WhatsApp wasn’t able to make voice calls, otherwise it would be perfect.
But that day has finally arrived. Now, WhatsApp has added a free voice calling feature to its Android app, in case you haven’t realized. The calling feature on WhatsApp was launched for Android last month in beta-test to a small number of users, followed by availability on an invitation-only basis. Now, it’s available (quietly) for every WhatsApp user on Android. So, go check your Android smartphone and update now.
What about iPhone iOS? This round, it seems Android gets the privilege over iPhone, as Apple fans will only get the calling feature in “a couple of weeks” down the road. Now, when you launch your WhatsApp on Android, you should see the latest version of WhatsApp offering a new, cleaner layout, with three tabs for Calls, Chats, and Contacts. You simply touch the Calls tab and select a contact to start talking.
However, there were cases where the update is still unavailable for certain users. Understandable, the roll-out is a bit patchy due to the massive 700 million WhatsApp users. There were also reports about jerky voice services (VOIP), annoying background echo and other teething problems related to such services which happened to Skype or Viber during their initial roll-out. Just be patient and try again using a better connection.
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