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Line goes live with calls to cell phones, landlines

Application users on Android can place domestic and international calls to outside lines for a monthly or per-call charge.

Screenshot/Jennifer Van Grove/CNET

Line, the Japan-based mega messaging app, said Monday that it's giving its audience in eight countries access to a new product called "Line Call," a service that lets people dial landlines and cell phones from the application for a fee.

Line Call, meant to be an affordable alternative to prepaid mobile service, is being released as part of the latest version of the company's Android application, and will be available shortly in the iOS version. The service is available to members with a registered phone number, and the company promises that its app-to-phone calling service provides "clear, uninterrupted, high-quality" calls.

The new service expands on Line's voice communications offerings, which let people make free VoIP and video calls to other application users. Line Call is offered as a 30-day subscription service or on a pay-as-you-go basis. Calls to land and mobile lines in the US and China are priced at 2 cents per minute.

"The ability to make calls directly to mobile and landline phones has been one of our most requested features," Line Euro-Americas CEO Jeanie Han said in a statement.

The news makes Line even more of a threat to Microsoft-owned Skype, and comes as messaging opponent WhatsApp readies the release of voice communications options for its 465 million active users. The messaging application, which is being purchased by Facebook for $19 billion, expects to release its VoIP features in the second quarter of this year.

Unlike WhatsApp, Line does not report active users, but the company has nearly doubled its registered user base from 200 million people in late July 2013 to 370 million people in mid-February.

Line Call is currently available to application users in Japan, United States, Mexico, Peru, Columbia, Thailand, Philippines, and Spain.

Update, 12:05 p.m. PT: With additional pricing info.