WhatsApp begins rollout of voice call functionality

The popular messaging app appears to have switched on its promised voice calling feature, with some users reporting the functionality appearing in the latest app build.

WhatsApp

Instant messaging service WhatsApp has seemingly begun a slow rollout of its anticipated voice-calling feature to its users in India, as reported by GSM Arena.

Reddit user Pradnesh Patil aka pradnesh07 posted screenshots and a video of a WhatsApp voice call in action. According to Patil, he was able to access the long-rumoured feature by sideloading the latest WhatsApp build (2.11.508) on a Nexus 5 running Android Lollipop. Other users have reported seeing the feature in the wild as well.

WhatsApp is currently the biggest instant messaging service in the world, with 700 million users as of January this year. In October 2014, Facebook finalised a $22 billion acquisition of the service, saying that it had no plans to change the app any time in the near future.

WhatsApp had previously announced the possibility of offering voice calls at Mobile World Congress 2014, with co-founder and chief executive Jan Koum initially positing a Q2 2014 launch for the new features.

Screenshot of the voice calling feature posted to Reddit. pradnesh07/Reddit

The current rollout -- which has not yet been officially announced by WhatsApp -- appears to be operating via an invite-only scenario. According to Patil, the feature gets switched on when a user who already has it enabled calls another user.

Voice-calling will put WhatsApp in direct competition with the likes of VoIP services Skype and Viber. The business model currently has the app free for the first year, then $1 a year after that. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that he was unsure how the company plans to monetise WhatsApp in the short term.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said: "We are rolling out a voice calling beta test to a small number of people, but we don't have anything more to share right now".

Updated on February 4, 2015 12.05 p.m. AEDT: added comment from WhatsApp

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