WhatsApp, the undoubted leader in the field of ubiquitous global messaging apps, has confirmed reports first published on the popular technology website, AllThingsD, that it will introduce ‘voice messaging’, a new feature that allows users to record and transmit voice messages using its platform.
The Mountain View, California based company also announced that their subscriber base had grown to above 300 million active users per month with approximately 31 billion messages and 325 million photos exchanged per day. To give you a further insight into its behemoth nature, Whatsapp enjoys market penetration of approximately 99% in Spain, 90% in Brazil and 96% in Hong Kong measured amongst smartphone messaging apps.
Voice messaging in smartphones is not a new phenomenon, with apps such as BBM (used on Blackberry OS 5.0 and higher), WeChat and Line (popular in Asian markets) already offering these services to its users.
However, the most striking feature of the new addition in WhatsApp is the simplicity with which users can record and send a voice message. As compared to the voice feature in the Facebook Messenger app, which requires three taps to make a recording, the WhatsApp voice feature starts recording with a single push which is transmitted once the user lifts his finger. If the user decides to discard the message, all they have to do is to simply swipe their finger to the left and the recording is deleted.
Other nifty additions to the voice messaging feature are that the volume automatically switches to speaker if held at an arms’ length and softer when put to the ear. Also, there is no limit on the length of the recorded message, and similar to WhatsApp text messages, there is a notification in the form of a blue microphone that lights up when the message has been played.
The new feature is technically referred to as ‘Push-to-talk messaging’, and was a personal initiative by WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum who worked in close conjunction with the company’s engineers to launch the project. It is expected to be rolled out on all WhatsApp compatible platforms and devices within the next 24 hours.
Despite its enormous potential, CEO Koum vehemently refuses to allow advertisements on WhatsApp. His extreme distaste for corporate advertising money can be viewed here. The business model is simple; with the app being free for the first year and simply $0.99 per year after that. Despite these seemingly low revenue lines, WhatsApp maintains that it is a profitable company, but as it is not publicly listed, it is not legally required to publish its accounts.
The next step for WhatsApp, according to Koum, is to focus on developing other features such as photo sharing. He is quick to emphasize that at its core, WhatsApp is a communications company, not simply just a text messaging app.
“We're definitely going to improve various ways of messaging,” said Koum.