06
Aug
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Speak softly and carry a big user base. It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but that might as well be the unofficial motto of WhatsApp. The cross-platform messaging service has been quietly spreading over the last couple of years, coming to every major mobile platform and gaining over 300 million active monthly users, according to AllThingsD. What's next for the quiet revolution? Voice communication.

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Well, sort of - it's more like a short voicemail message, not a live two-way conversation. But the hook is that it's free, like the WhatsApp apps and its SMS-style service. (Users get a year-long free trial, then it's just a $.99-per-year subscription.) Today Push-to-talk messages have been enabled for all versions of the app on all platforms, allowing connected users to talk to each other with only the connection cost in their way. And that's a lot of users, all over the world. Some locations and platforms have been using the voice messages for a while, but now it's worldwide across Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry, and Symbian.

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In the updated app you tap and hold the microphone icon to record a message, then release to send it. You can see that your recipient is listening to the message when it turns blue. It's not quite like the "PTT" feature that became popular in the mid-2000s, because it has to be recorded and transmitted. And it isn't a new idea, either: there are more than a few apps on the Play Store that use this functionality as their core selling point. The two things that WhatsApp offers that might actually make a difference are that huge user base, and the fact that each one can be contacted via an existing phone number integrated into your phone's contact directory.

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WhatsApp is unlikely to bring the established carrier model to its knees, but with a dedicated group of active users and a ridiculously easy method of replacing SMS, it might just disrupt the market of SMS fees - or at least what's left of it. The WhatsApp network continues to grow at a rapid pace: approximately 50 million new, active users in the last two months alone. It's certainly possible that it could become much more widespread than Hangouts, iMessage, BBM, and the like.

Source: AllThingsD, WhatsApp FAQ - Thanks, Varenya Mehta!

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • FrillArtist

    Optimistic much? SMS isn't going anywhere. There are millions who don't use WhatsApp. I don't because it's a battery killer and resource hog.

    • Matt Alexander

      WhatsApp has a pretty negligible effect on battery life and resources. I'm happy to take some battery shots if you really don't believe it, but I've yet to scroll down far enough to see WhatsApp on my battery usage stats.

      • Ray

        I don't use it anymore but WhatsApp never really made any significant difference to my battery either when I was using it.

    • Ricardo Neves

      Yeah, a lot of people still cling to the ancient SMS, even though they have a data plan. So many alternatives to sms (facebook messenger, hangouts, whatsapp, skype and lots more), the fact that carriers still charge for a 160 char message is ridiculous, but it's also partly people's fault for still using them in the first place...

      • Muhammad Zohaib Rizwani

        well depends on where you live in the UAE a texts cost 5 cents and data is 1gb is around 27 dollars

        back in Pakistan unlimited texts cost around 78 cents/month and you get 2gb for $2/3 (238 billion text messages were sent in a year) 1 Billion alone on new years eve, with a subscriber base of 118 million btw.

        So Sms might cling on for a bit till data goes on to be on better rates, I mean considering the location.

        • spydie

          It will never replace standard texting in the U.S.

          • jurrabi

            Let's talk in 5 years... You probably said the same thing about postal mail not so long ago ;)

        • Markoff

          similar in China, SMS cost around 0.1RMB (that's like 2 USD cents), which is reason why everyone in China is using QQ/Weixin (it's chinese name for WeChat if you didn't know this is chinese spyware always listening to yours messages and if it detects suspisicous words sometimes it doesn't even deliver the message) and people have QQ numbers even on business cards, in advertisements, they arer just everywhere...
          what some chinese operators tried to do was to put additional charge for QQ/Weixin messaging despite charging already for data connection

      • http://papped.webatu.com papped

        Part of the problem is that there are too many alternatives... Reliably using one of those alternatives to contact everyone tends to not work out for a lot of people.

    • Jaymoon

      SMS is just the Internet Explorer of mobile phones. It's already there, and does what it's supposed to. Most people feel that is good enough.

      ...and from someone who only has a handful of friends who use WhatsApp and limited day to day use, it doesn't affect my battery one bit.

      • roberto.elena

        I agree completely with your analogy. I use Internet Explorer and SMS under the same circumstances, i.e., when it is the only option left.

      • jurrabi

        At least now I now someone that uses SMS.

        I never liked it, from the begining when no other messaging existed in mobile phones.

        At least here in Spain companies charged per SMS. So any 3 messages long conversation was more expensive that a call.

        And today I can't understand how SMS is any good. You can't even multicast without being charged for each individual message.

        But hey. whatever floats your boat!

    • roberto.elena

      In markets where SMS are not usually free or were not free before WhatsApp arrived, yes, SMS are already dead. Example: Spain.

    • Armando Rodriguez

      "now has 300 million monthly active users"

      300M people disagree with you.

      And I never seen Whatsapp in my Battery usage chart.

      • Thomas’

        Sometimes Whatsapp is first in battery usage on my device. Clearly a bug somewhere.

    • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

      Nonsense

    • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

      SMS is still going to hang around for a good few years and there are many many apps that do what Whatsapp does and many that do what Whatsapp doesn't yet do. But, your claim about Whatsapp being a battery killer and a resource hog is just ridiculous. I've used it on iOS, BB and Android and it doesn't do that on any of those platforms. It sips a negligible amount of battery and barely uses any resources.

    • candroid

      battery hog? what did you install it on, a potato?

    • LorenzKE

      There are 80 million people in germany and 20 Million whatsapp users!

  • spydie

    I can't see this even making a dent in regular texting through the carriers and built in text app. Everyone has free texting these days. If you don't then you don't have a smartphone.

    • Gustavo Parrado

      I'm pretty sure I have a smartphone, but as said by many before, it's more of a service provider thing, in countries like mine, sms are not free, expensive even.

    • Ricardo Neves

      That's the thing, we have SMARTphones now, and we're still relying on a technology from the 90's...carriers need to stop being greedy and move on already. Why not make a deal with one of these IM companies to allow free data usage through their apps?

      • http://creativezane.sg Zane Lee

        Done! Singapore used to have 12GB data caps for like S$39/mth plans, but the carriers went down to 2GB recently, perhaps due to upgrading of infrastructure such as LTE etc. But yes, they have just introduced prepaid plans with unlimited data for WhatsApp. Now if only WhatsApp had free calls, that prepaid plan alone could replace your calls and sms! http://info.singtel.com/about-us/news-releases/surf-and-send-instant-messages-your-heart%E2%80%99s-content-new-singtel-prepaid-mobil

      • https://plus.google.com/111019692970182387850 Carlos Sarthou

        The thing about SMS is that it's platform-independent in the mobile space. You never have to even consider what messaging services other people use because you can be certain that an SMS will be received as an SMS regardless of what phone they're using. Same goes for plain ol' calls. So unless there comes a time where all these different chat apps can communicate with each other, phasing the SMS model out is still a ways off.

        Personally, I'd love to just stick with a pure data plan (though I technically do have that since my plan just has unlimited data covered with some free minutes and texts, with any excesses being billed on top of it) and route all of my communication through Hangouts and possibly just one extra app. I still can't do that though because not everybody uses the same things and it's a pain having to convince other people to use one more app when they're already using plenty. And in my country's case, SMS is either free or dirt-cheap on all carriers. That's basically why it still sticks. Then there's the whole issue of reliability. You can always be certain that there are still areas that have horrible data coverage but with good cell signal. Especially in rural areas. And those people will still need SMS until the proper infrastructure is rolled out to cover the entire country.

      • http://about.me/sarmedsiddique Sarmed Siddique

        Here in Pakistan, my network (ufone) offers a 'whatsapp bucket' for 30rs pm. That's unlimited whatsapp for 30cents pm.

    • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

      What does free texting have to do with a smartphone? And no, a LOT of people around the world still pay for SMS. So, services like Whatsapp have made a significant dent on SMS. You can continue to think otherwise..

      • luke

        Your argument make sense, but it also points out the major flaw with Whatsapp's business model. That is it relying of SMS not being free. The instant one carrier in Brazil or Spain or India makes SMS free Whatsapp house of cards comes crumbing down. Since not a single person will want to chew up their precious data allowance when SMS is free. Just look at the US for an example. Here SMS is for the most part free, and nearly no one uses Whatsapp (unless they are avoiding international texting fees). Google could buy TIM telecom in Brazil for $16 billion (yes that's what it is selling for), make SMS free and instantly kill Whatsapp.

  • Max

    woah push-to-talk and it's free ! no, really? /sarcasm off. Skype, Viber and dozend others offer free real calls for years and you make it sound like a big deal. Quite ridiculous.

    • Ricardo Neves

      Indeed, seems a little exagerated, facebook messenger has had this for months now, and they also have a pretty huge user base

  • TY

    Why I use WhatsApp: HOLO

    • rgucci

      Hoes only live once?

      • Chris J Robert

        I use it to stock women

  • LiiIiikEaBau5

    It keeps me in touch with my family living abroad!

    • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

      ... Wait? What Broad!??

  • awaaas

    For an app with a phone in it's logo, it is hard to believe whatsapp didn't offer call service from the beginning

    • Frekko

      It was there forever. Was just in form Of attachment , record voice. They just moved it to the main interface

  • Max

    You should report about messengers like Threema, which helps keeping NSA out of our private conversation and does not copy all our contacts like Whatsapp does

  • akshay7394

    This is a blatant rip-off of all the Whatsapp+ developer's hard work.

    I know he based it on whatsapp and they called for a takedown and all, but the least they could do is credit him for this or give him a job so he could do this for him officially (he lost his just days before whatsapp's legal notice) rather than steal things that people loved about his MOD of the official whatsapp application.

    • thartist

      No. It wasn't legal.

      • akshay7394

        Doesn't mean they didn't steal his idea. And is also completely irrelevant, considering i said "I know they called for a takedown" meaning i know him doing that was illegal. But EVERYbody loved this mod of his when he implemented it and they ripped it off to the letter. I'm just saying, if they appreciated his work enough to use it, they should either give him a job or acknowledge it as being his work/idea.

  • The_Chlero

    In fact, this is far from new in Whatsapp too. You can record a voice message with 2 minutes long and send it to your contact.

    This is just a improved practical version of that. This will be not any relevant.

  • Gsizzle

    Get on it Google!

  • Jon

    These voice functions are exactly as wechat's. Very well thought, such as lowering the volume depending if your phone is on your ear or not. Wechat had them for over a year, but it's nice to see them in Wechat. I wish hangouts included something like this...

    • Markoff

      WeChat, you mean that chinese spyware from chinese company Tencent producing other spyware running on background, impossible to switch off?

      • Jon

        Could you elaborate? Which spyware runs in the background impossible to turn off?
        I may have serious doubts about the company's safety, but that doesn't take away that they took care of those details way before whatsapp. Plus whatsapp is no safety haven, and keeps all your conversations on their servers with no encryption, ready for the NSA to happily take them. I don't mean wechat to be any good, but imho whatsapp deserves no trust either.

        • Markoff

          http://www.techinasia.com/china-wechat-censoring-users-globally/

          http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1064374/taiwan-opposition-voice-security-fears-over-wechat-launch

          etc. etc.

          I still have higher trust to american spyware than any chinese spyware, at least non-chinese spyware can usually use resources properly.

          • Jon

            So...
            First article says how the application is being forced to censor its comments, just like it's bigger brother weibo. Just like any other chinese website.
            Second article talks about the Taiwanese officials being afraid the app COULD be used to install spyware. Just like any app. Not that it has been, or it will ever be. It could. You trust the publisher, or you don't.
            So from these two links, we can infer that:
            1: wechat censors comments (nothing new here)
            2: Taiwanese officials distrust the app.
            From that to claim that:
            1: has spyware
            2: that spyware drains the android services by running in the background
            ...I hope you agree there's quite a jump. A rather large one, if you ask me. Can wechat be used to track user's comments through their government? Yeah, sure. So does google, and so does facebook. And whatsapp, for that matter.
            I really think you should check your claims before throwing them just like that.

            EDIT: I'd like to add I have nothing to defend from wechat, as I don't especially like it, I mostly need to use it to keep contact with some Chinese friends. But it bothers me when people just throws random and totally unfunded claims.

  • mesmorino

    Tango not only offers this, it also offers free voice calls AND video calls. Still, progress is progress.

    Plus, I'm pretty sure you could already send audio messages with whatsapp

  • Zaatour36

    I've seen this for months, nothing new here...

    even when cancel recording, a throw to trash animation appears!

  • IncCo

    Viber

  • Mike

    I used to like What's App BUT I think its total BS that they charge android users a recurring fee (and not any other platform)... I have found SO many FREE alternatives to WA also. If they just charged for the app, like other platforms, that's totally fine (even if they charged the other platforms a recurring fee, it would be OK). I just don't get the discrimination. Just doesn't seem 'fair'...

    • Thomas Lockyer

      It's not free on iOS either as far as I'm aware? It's like 69p for a year for something you use every day.

      I think it's free for the first year or something, but it is on Android too.

    • Thomas’

      They had different models on different platforms.

      iOS: buy once, use for free. Obviously a crappy business plan, since every user will turn from profit to costs at some point. So it was more like a pyramid scheme.
      Android: get for free, pay yearly. Better, since you get easier spread.

      Some time ago they changed the iOS model to the Android one.

    • https://plus.google.com/111019692970182387850 Carlos Sarthou

      I'd hazard a guess that their initial reasoning behind that was to curb piracy on Android. But I believe there are now recurring fees on iOS as well.

  • Thomas Lockyer

    WhatsApp has had this feature for as long as I've used it, which was way before even the Holo UI overhall. It's just been implemented a little nicer.

  • http://flavors.me/sabret00the sabret00the

    Why haven't WhatsApp got a beta group on G+ yet?

  • jurrabi

    Actually... how can you say any feature of a payed service is free?
    You might say "it's included in the package". But we get your catch.

    Whatsapp it's going down. At least for me.

  • Varenya Mehta

    You are welcome :)

  • Hank

    Yeh, whatsapp FTW....

  • Chris

    But... But... It was already available in whatsapp+

  • Jadephyre

    I wonder when (or if) they will implement encryption.
    I have already defected to Threema, because WA is just too unsecure, and yes I know that complete security can never exist. But why make it easier on the spies than I have to.

  • Angmancy

    This is weird. I got this new mic icon replacing my sent until I write something. But I did not update the app through play store. Also in my recently updated apps there is no whatsapp. And the latest update in the play store is 31 of July. So is this a silent update??
    Anyway, there should want an option to disable this. I already accidentally pressed this a couple of times. Mine is 2.11.12 version

  • JustSaying

    Anyone else bothered by the fact that the app updated itself?

  • Aakriti Gupta

    Dis new feature is nt wrking in my samsung galaxy ace..help me plz

  • Julia Jackson

    Do you have problem with your whatsapp so then you should surely check this side

    http://www.phonesappstabs.com/problems-with-my-whatsapp-messenger/

  • sumit bhalla

    sumit

  • luke

    Seems the majority of users of this app are international, and they are using it to avoid their carriers SMS charges (which isn't much of a problem in the US where is seems unlimited SMS is the standard). Isn't this app nearly made irrelevant if the Brazilian carriers and Spanish carriers make SMS free?

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