Message service Whatsapp will make it possible to call via the app this year. The functionality will be made available for Android and iPhone users in the second quarter, after which Windows Phone and BlackBerry will also be introduced at a later stage.
The announcement was made by WhatsApp founder Jan Koum during the Mobile World Congress, which takes place this week in Barcelona. “We’re adding calling to WhatsApp so people can keep in touch with friends around the world,” Koum said, according to The Guardian.
With the new voip function, WhatsApp has to compete with, among others, Skype, the BBM messenger from BlackBerry and KakaoTalk, a calling app that is very popular in Asia. Although it has been possible to call a contact from the app for some time, it is not yet possible to set up a VoIP call from the app.
The extension of the app would be the first major innovation to WhatsApp in years. The app was acquired by Facebook last week for $16 billion, or $11.6 billion. Just like Instagram after the acquisition, the chat app will remain a separate app with its own team.
WhatsApp was hit by a long-term outage last weekend. After the acquisition, the app gained 15 million users, which may have caused the servers to go down. It took several hours for WhatsApp to fix the outage. Also competitor Telegram almost succumbed to the influx of new users last Saturday. This service gained 1.8 million new users on Saturday alone.