WhatsApp Call Feature

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Well well, when WhatsApp was bought by Facebook, the Social Media world shared mixed feelings regarding the future of the Most-Loved Mobile Instant-Messaging platform even though its founders promised to keep WhatsApp as ‘WhatsApp‘ – The same model. Facebook on its side said that it will bring its contributions to the app and connect more people through same. WhatsApp is the de-facto messaging platform on mobile phones, be it Android ones, iOS ones or Windows mobile ones, while its rival, Viber, is prefered for voice and video calling. – WhatApp and Viber share an almost similar model; that of enabling instant messaging with the possibility to share photos, videos, voice notes, emoticons, etc – So, how can you swallow the group of users still sticking to Viber because of its call features?.. (Let’s forget Skype for the time-being and concentrate on these two major rivals :) )   .. Well, you develop your own Call feature! And it’s Facebook! Anything it touches, becomes gold! Since then, there has been rumours about a Call feature being developed for WhatsApp. Facebook annonced it once and Mark Zuckerburg commented about it following a user’s question on Facebook. Release dates were not disclosed and spammers took advantage of that to mass-message fake WhatsApp Call activation links, which turned out to be user-data collecting honey-pots.. [Fast-Forward..] And then came the big day! Users got the upgrade message on their mobiles and downloaded the latest version (Mine’s 2.11.543). Among the new features, spare the tweaked UI, is a little phone icon next to the ‘Attach‘ icon. Brace Yourselves ! The Call feature is here, finally!

The newly-added 'phone' icon

The newly-added ‘phone’ icon

I got the upgrade message last night (Tuesday 31/03/15), at around 2:30 am and decided to upgrade to the latest version. -The message said that the upgrade would officially be in two weeks time, but I can choose to upgrade now itself.- I completely forgot about the call feature and was pleased+shocked to see the icon! I immediately initiated some calls, but my recipients were on the other side of the World.. sleeping.. – I should be sleeping at that time too, but 😛 – The following day, a WhatsApp call from another contact, who I thought did not have the feature, got me thinking that it was being deployed. The feature, according to posts on blogs and Technology sites (unofficial) – The WhatsApp blog is not up-to-date and does not have anything about the new feature –, has been deployed since the 15th of March on the Android versions of the application. Users had to download the latest version to use the feature. But, there was another way to get the feature too. You can have one of your contacts, who already have the feature on their mobile phone, to call you; you accept the call, and Voila! Yours is upgraded too! 😉

As usual, I carried out some tests to see whether it will suit me or not and for the general public too. I had two questions in mind; What about data usage? What about the call quality?

Regarding data usage, I was astonished that it did not ‘eat-up’ that much data traffic. I cumulated around 941 KB of Sent Data, and 958 KB of Received data for around 11 mins of call. I am pretty happy with those figures as I use Data Connection most of the time instead of Wi-Fi. – WhatsApp provides its own data usage metrics from the Settings page categorised by Feature.-

Even if data usage is not that heart-breaking, the call quality though is a little deceiving. First, there is the issue of echo on both sides, plus a lag of around half a second during the call. (Both parties were using Data Connection). While using Wi-Fi on my side, the lag was not that much perceivable but frequent disconnections were noted. For some seconds, the call is lost, and WhatsApp attempts to reconnect the call. Quite annoying!

Also, the fact that when a user who has not yet upgraded to the latest WhatsApp version, can get the feature by accepting a WhatsApp call from another user who has already upgraded and using the feature, raises some questions. Like, where does the upgrade package come from then? Has it already been downloaded stealthily and is triggered by the phone call? Can’t the user accept/decline the installation of the feature?

Something else, same as WhatsApp messaging is there in the ‘New Message’ context menu, it would be great if the WhatsApp call feature is added to the ‘New Call’ context menu. :)

Well.. From a broader perspective, the feature as such is a good upgrade. WhatsApp lacked that feature and as WhatsApp is accessible to almost all Android devices (Version 2.3 and upwards) compared to Viber, adding the Call feature (Only Voice for the time being) will turn more users into happy customers. I am not aware whether Facebook/WhatsApp is planning to add Video Call features; Viber will continue to have the upper-hand in that field :)

Calling a WhatsApp user

Calling a WhatsApp user

In-app WhatsApp calls log

In-app WhatsApp calls log

For Android Users who have not yet updated theirs; here’s the direct link to the Package:
https://www.whatsapp.com/android/2/WhatsApp.apk

Sources:

  • http://www.distimo.com/blog/2014_03_tango-viber-whatsapp/
  • http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/24/whatsapp-to-start-offering-internet-phone-calls
  • http://www.androidpit.com/whatsapp-call-feature-here-s-how-to-get-whatsapp-voice-calling
  • http://www.engadget.com/2015/03/31/whatsapp-voice-calling-android/
  • http://indianexpress.com/article/technology/social/whatsapp-calling-is-now-open-for-android-users/
Disclaimer:
  1. Trademarks mentioned in the article belong to their respective owners.
  2. This article is not an advertising material for any Trademark mentioned nor is the article backed by any of the companies.

Till then,

Irshaad :)

 

Thanks to Bilaal and Fawwaaz for their contribution. Special thanks to those who helped in the tests. 😉

About irshaad

Irshaad is from Mauritius and a student in Information Systems Engineering in Turkey. Social, geeky, tech-lover and everything that's linked to technology; he's in it. Not exactly 'Jack of all trades' but he likes to try and test each and everything he comes across. His personal page: irshaad.me

  • alCosecant Maths

    Copy-cats of Skype . . .

    • Not exactly; the model is different.

      • alCosecant Maths

        With the same idea or ‘inspiration’.

        • Maybe they both fall under the “Communcation apps” category but they are different technically and in business terms.