The future of phone service over the Internet – technically called Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP – just got a boost as a recent build of WhatsApp came with a new feature that allows users to make free voice calls.
It was rumored for months that WhatsApp has such an offering in development. Recently, it was revealed that some WhatsApp customers in India can now make VOIP calls.
Reports of the VOIP feature in WhatsApp came from one particular user on Reddit named Pradnesh Patil who goes by the handle pradnesh07. He initially posted screenshots of WhatsApp with a call in progress and even uploaded a video of it on YouTube. His post and photos on Reddit were later removed because they contained personal information. But by then the news had spread, and several news outlets based their stories on his post.
In his post, Patil said he sideloaded WhatsApp build number 2.11.508, which happened to be the latest on his Nexus 5 device, after his friend who was testing the app notified him about voice calling.
Since then, other people have reported the new voice calling feature in WhatsApp.
While there has been a lot of buzz around the voice calling feature on WhatsApp since it was announced last year, a number of apps actually already have it. In fact the first versions of these apps were launched way back in 2006. Since then, Nimbuzz and Viber have become dominant players especially in Middle East countries and India.
A good idea of the number of calls routed through VOIP service providers can be obtained by looking at Nimbuzz which routes over 1 billion calls every month, including both free and paid calls.
With WhatsApps choosing to test its VOIP feature in India, it is clear that the company is targeting the Asian market. However, no official word regarding the launch of the VOIP feature has come out of the company.