FYI: WhatsApp

People like to talk to their friends and connect with them for free. That’s why sites like Facebook and Twitter are so popular, especially now you can download an app for your smartphone and chat on the go. Apps that connect people with their friends and let them stay in touch for less will always be popular. This explains the growth of WhatsApp, a cross-platform messaging application.

WhatsApp is an instant messaging platform where you can text and send pictures or videos to friends via a Wi-Fi or 3G connection. The appeal of WhatsApp is it’s free and can be downloaded on devices other than Androids and iPhones. It is also available on Blackberry, Windows Phone and Nokia phones.

Set up is also easy, which increases the appeal. All you need to do is download WhatsApp from your app store, enter your country code (+353 for Republic of Ireland) and your phone number. It then sends you a text with a verification code before validating your account and letting you set up your profile. An important thing to take note of is upon validation, the application sends a push notification to welcome you and inform you that the first year is free and costs €0.89 annually after that. Not so free anymore, eh?

Despite the somewhat false advertising, it’s still better value than other applications and platforms and proves to be very popular. In February of this year, company CEO Jan Koum said the app had 465 million active users every month and 330 million users overall. It also set a new company record earlier this month when it was revealed on the official Twitter account that 64 billion messages had been sent over just 24 hours on the app. These impressive statistics are no doubt what lead to the acquisition of the app by Facebook for a staggering €19 billion.

WhatsApp won’t always be simply a messaging tool either. In a speech given by Koum in February, he revealed voice calling would be added to the app’s repertoire in the second quarter of this year. Screenshots and translations of Hindu text messages relating to this new feature are heating up the discussions online and suggest that it could be coming sooner than expected.

In the same speech, Koum said they would be unveiling a new way of working with mobile carriers (networks such as Meteor and Vodafone). This has now come to life as German company E-Plus have started to sell a new prepaid SIM that gives the users unlimited access to WhatsApp without affecting their data plans. The company is now called a MVNO or mobile virtual network operator, meaning it doesn’t own the actual network but has a part in the service.

This, according to WhatsApp, is the first time a tech company has partnered with a carrier in this way: “This is the first kind of its deal globally between a technology company and a carrier. Carriers are important strategic partners for WhatsApp and we’re constantly working with them to bring innovative offerings to users globally.”

There hasn’t been any say in whether or not the deal with this carrier is exclusive but perhaps a similar merger with international carriers could be on the cards for the future. Watch this space, WhatsApp can only get bigger from here.

Janine Kavanagh

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