Popular mobile messaging service WhatsApp has started the rollout of the much-awaited voice calling feature in India, restricted to users of Android devices with version 2.11.508 of WhatsApp, which is the app's latest version.
The slow testing and release of the feature is reportedly by invitation only at the moment. Users can receive the invitation from other users who have the feature activated. This means that, even if users in India download and install the latest version of WhatsApp, they would have to first require another user to roll out the voice calling feature to them or call them.
The first user that reported the testing of WhatsApp's voice calling feature in India posted about it on the popular online forum Reddit, stating that he had the feature activated on his Nexus 5 that was powered by Android 5.0 Lollipop.
"I can't seem to send invites to other people; the only thing I can ensure is that it works in India for people running Lollipop 5.0.x on a Nexus 5. Other Indians without the earlier combo don't get it," Reddit user pradnesh07 wrote.
On Reddit, users posted several screenshots showing a new tab for Calls alongside the tabs of Chats and Contacts. The user interface seen in the images looks like the screenshots of the voice calling feature that were released back in December 2014.
WhatsApp recently reached the milestone of having a million active monthly users, but it is not resting on its laurels over that fact. The company has continuously been developing and launching new features to the service, most recent of which is the capability for users to use WhatsApp on their desktop computers.
The company launched WhatsApp Web last month, which allows users to use the company's services through a client on the Google Chrome browser. The service, however, is currently available to users of devices running on Android, BlackBerry, Nokia S60 and Windows Phone, with iOS devices currently unsupported.
With the service's new voice calling feature, WhatsApp will increase its competitiveness against rival communication apps, such as Viber and Hike, which also have similar features.
The functionality has gained popularity as an added feature for messaging apps, but telecommunications providers in India have previously expressed concerns that the feature would render their services obsolete. The companies are even seeking a share of the revenues for such services.
Telecommunications company Airtel India recently announced that it would be charging users who use Internet services for voice calls, triggering debates on the topic of net neutrality in the country. Airtel India later withheld the move.