If you are a WhatsApp user you may have noticed that there’s a new “Calls” tab in your app. Could it be that everyone’s favourite messaging application is now offering cheap calls too? It‘s true, but before you make your first call here are a few things you need to know.
Chances are, if you have WhatsApp on your Android or iOS phone already, it has automatically updated to the latest version of the app, which has voice calls enabled. If it hasn’t, go into the Play store or iTunes and search for WhatsApp. The latest version will be available for free download.
Making a voice call on WhatsApp is as easy as sending a message. You tap the “Calls” tab, search for a contact, and tap on their name to make a call. The call connects to their phone with the same ring tone as their normal voice calls. They swipe to answer, and you get talking.
The call functionality has not yet begun to roll out for Windows phones, but it is reported that this will be made available soon.
Of course, the biggest question on everyone’s lips is one of cost. Unfortunately, data calling costs are, well, variable.
MyBroadband looked into the costs of data across all of South Africa’s network operators and worked out that WhatsApp calls could costs users as little as 2c per minute or as much as 92c per minute (which brings it fairly close to the cost of regular cell phone calls), depending on your contract or data bundle option. Take a look at the published rates to find out what your WhatsApp calls will cost you.
On the upside, those costs remain the same whether you are calling locally, nationally or internationally!
Unfortunately, there’s always a downside to cheap services and in the case of WhatsApp voice calling that downside is quality. Users report lag of up to two seconds or more, which makes conversation very stilted. The calls can also be jittery or have background noise.
South Africa’s mobile networks are not quite up to providing quality voice calls over data services just yet. If you have a data bundle or contract that makes WhatsApp calls cost effective, then they can be a great way to have a chat. But you’re not going to get the same flowing quality as a regular voice call and you might struggle to make the connection in the first place.
However, if quality and consistency aren’t essential to your phonecall experience, and your data package makes them cost effective, then WhatsApp calls are a great way to get in touch.