Facebook’s WhatsApp adding voice calls

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(CNN) — WhatsApp, the globally popular texting app that Facebook just acquired for a whopping $19 billion, is adding phone calls to its list of services.

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum said the voice service will be free and begin rolling out to users within the next few months.

Currently, WhatsApp offers unlimited text and voice-mail messages between users. Its service is free for the first year, then costs 99 cents annually.

“We want to make sure people always have the ability to stay in touch with their friends and loved ones really affordably,” Koum said in a speech at Mobile World Congress.

As reported by multiple news outlets, Koum also announced that WhatsApp now has 465 million monthly users and 330 million daily users. The latter is 15 million more than what was made public last week when Facebook announced the purchase.

Voice service will come first to Apple devices and Google’s Android operating system, with Windows phones and Blackberry to follow.

The move puts WhatsApp in competition not only with other messaging apps that offer voice but chat tools such as Skype and even mobile carriers. WhatsApp’s unlimited texting has already helped establish it in places where smartphones and fancy data plans are less common.

It has 40 million users in India and another 38 million in Brazil, two countries highly coveted by tech companies such as Facebook for their large populations and emerging mobile customer base. WhatsApp hasn’t released figures for the United States, where it is less popular.

Last week, Facebook shocked the business world when it announced it was buying WhatsApp for up to $19 billion in cash and stock — by far the social network’s largest acquisition to date.

By Doug Gross


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