WhatsApp voice calling feature has been a long time coming, but screenshots taken of the app's test build shows users of the Facebook-owned messaging app could soon be given the ability to make Internet calls via WhatsApp.
The screenshots were taken by a Netherlands-based Android-centered website called AndroidWorld.nl, which says it was able to take the images after downloading the updates from the WhatsApp version on the WhatsApp website. This is different from the stable build that is available to all users on Google Play.
Everyone can also download the test build from the WhatsApp website, but it's less popular. Here, users get access to new features that are rolled out for testing. And it appears that WhatsApp has released the voice calling feature in beta, although the company still has to officially announce it.
According to AndroidWorld.nl, the WhatsApp version that allows voice calling now asks for users' permission to turn on Bluetooth, which is needed for anyone who wants to connect his phone to a Bluetooth headset when making a WhatsApp call.
The feature's interface appears simple and straight to the point. WhatsApp has included a section for voice calls separate from the chat function. Users can start a call as they do when starting an instant messaging conversation. They simply tap the button at the top of the screen and the profile picture of the contact they are calling will appear.
In the calls section, one can see a history of their dialed calls and missed calls. This information appears under the name of each contact, along with pictures, files and messages the user has shared with that contact. Also interesting is the ability to record calls so users can get back to them for future playback and review.
There is no knowing when the voice calling feature, believed to be called WhatsApp Call, will make it to the official version of the messaging app, but WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum promised earlier this year that the company will be rolling out the feature in early 2015, which means the screenshots are right on the dot.
It is unclear whether WhatsApp plans to offer voice calls as a premium feature. WhatsApp rivals, such as Viber, Skype and Line already offer voice calling as a free feature, so it makes sense for WhatsApp to release the new feature for free.
More than 600 million users around the world use WhatsApp as their preferred messaging app, with a large majority found in developing countries where users do not have access to the same high-speed data available in the United States. At the Code/Mobile conference in October, Koum announced that the rollout of voice calling will face delays as WhatsApp figures out how to make the feature work even with poor data connection.