Just about everyone in the tech industry is talking about the $19B Facebook/Whatsapp deal, so what better time to announce new features coming soon to the service. TechCrunch reports that WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum announced at Mobile World Congress today that the app will gain voice calling functionality sometime in Q2 of this year:
“We use the least amount of bandwidth and we use the hell out of it,” he said. “We will focus on simplicity.” Voice will come to Android and iOS first and then following on some Nokia and BlackBerry phones, he added.
The report adds that WhatsApp will also soon be working with some carrier partners:
While WhatsApp, as an OTT service, may appear like one of the companies that is attacking carriers, it is also working with them. The first partnership will be with e-plus to offer special tariffs to access the app, Koum said today. Interestingly, disrupting the current mobile communications economy has put WhatsApp right back into the kinds of services that built out that economy in the first place — in today’s case, voice.
Facebook of course already offers voice calling in some countries, but it’s unclear if the new WhatsApp feature will be integrated with the Facebook voice features. WhatsApp already offers users the ability to send short recorded voice messages as pictured above).
Despite the plans for new features, Koum reiterated that, “There are no planned changes and we will continue to do what we set out to do, even after the acquisition closes.” That, he said, includes “no marketing.”