Tech startup WhatsApp’s imminent addition of a voice calling feature to its instant messaging platform is expected to help the company continue its booming growth worldwide, especially in emerging markets, amid the increasing use of smartphones, a report said.
Ovum analyst Richard Hurst said developing markets, in terms of consumers and service providers, are likely to feel the effects of WhatsApp’s voice over IP feature most acutely when the service launches in the first quarter of this year, according to ITWeb.
“The effect will be felt more in emerging markets like South Africa and Africa than other markets that are less price-sensitive”, he said.
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ICT expert Adrian Schofield noted that it is too expensive to equip emerging markets with wired services which have historically been absent. “Wireless-based broadband services will be predominant in emerging markets. Growth will come from network technology”, he said.
While the desire to send and receive content is there, said Schofield, the ability to benefit from a wireless technology is far stronger in emerging markets that were previously deprived of it, ITWeb said.
Hurst cautioned, however, that a trade-off inevitably exists when it comes to the ability to provide a quality service. WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum recently alluded to a focus on quality – particularly in emerging markets – citing technical issues around this as being the reason for the protracted delay in bringing the company’s free voice service to market, the report said.
In a Facebook post last week, Koum shared that WhatsApp had reached over 700 million active monthly users. “Additionally, every day our users now send over 30 billion messages, ” he said, adding that users could expect the firm to “keep building a great product” this year.
This means WhatsApp is bigger than its Facebook-owned counterpart Instagram and micro-blog rival Twitter, which together have less than 600 million active monthly users. This is hefty growth, considering WhatsApp boasted “more than 450 million” active monthly users when it was acquired by Facebook 11 months ago, ITWeb said.
Meanwhile, WhatsApp messages now exceed SMS messages by 50 per cent, threatening to “kill off” SMS communications entirely, ITProPortal said.
WhatsApp currently processes 30 billion messages a day, or 347, 222 every second. The already sizeable gap in popularity between WhatsApp and texting is set to increase, with the latter experiencing declining usage since 2011, the website said.
Short Message Service, or SMS, was the predominant form of text messaging for several years and at the end of 2010 was the most widely used data application, with approximately 3.5 billion users, according to ITProPortal.
However, as mobile apps have grown in popularity, SMS usage has declined as newer services offer free communication and additional features, the website said.