Popular instant messaging app WhatsApp has finally launched a new voice calling service, enabling users to make phone calls over the Internet. This is the first time WhatsApp is offering this, which puts it head-to-head against the likes of Skype, Viber, and others.
Initially soft launched as an invite-only feature, some iOS users might still have to wait a little before voice calling is activated. Android users no longer need to be invited to get WhatsApp Call.
WhatsApp Call works via the Internet i.e. it uses your data plan, not your network’s voice calling ability. So it works like Skype and its many competitors. To put it simply, you won’t be charged for making a call or have your minutes depleted. However, you will be charged for using data, depending on your phone’s data plan.
If you are using WhatsApp Call over a Wi-Fi connection, your phone’s network carrier (e.g. AT&T, Vodafone, etc.) won’t charge you anything.
What Can You Do with WhatsApp Call
Once you get WhatsApp Call, your app will get three tabs: Calls, Chats and Contacts. The first tab, Calls, is where your recent calls log is shown.
WhatsApp Call only allows for voice calls, not video chat. You’ll still need to use other apps to make video calls to Facebook friends. WhatsApp Call is just like dialling a number, putting your phone to your ear and speaking—except instead of dialling a number, you will be dialling a WhatsApp contact only.
You can call any Android or iOS user with WhatsApp installed. You cannot call users on other platforms yet.
Calling someone in another country will cost the same as calling someone in your own country—all you need to pay for is the data charge, which is roughly the same regardless of where your call is going.
What Can’t You Do with WhatsApp Call
You can’t call users who aren’t on WhatsApp. This is a WhatsApp-to-WhatsApp connection only.
WhatsApp has not officially released figures on the estimated data usage, and it’s a little difficult to come to an exact number. However, we tried a few tests to come to an approximate idea.
WhatsApp Call in the Same Country (India to India):
1 minute: 280 KB
5 minutes: 1.1 MB
WhatsApp Call International (India to USA):
1 minute: 330 KB
5 minutes: 1.25 MB
We tracked data usage with the Onavo Count app, and multiple calls showed no significant difference between data consumption on 3G or Wi-Fi. By most estimates, this data usage should cost less than what a phone call costs.
WhatsApp Call has clear voice output but it sometimes leads to a slight lag in responses and you even get echoes. It isn’t as smooth an experience as Viber, which has been doing VOIP calls for a long time. That’s not to say WhatsApp Call is bad, just that we now expect a hassle-free, no-fuss experience with voice calls which it doesn’t always deliver.