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Now 800 million strong, WhatsApp rolls out voice calling for iOS

As WhatsApp introduces a voice calling feature for iPhones, it appears the company is on track to reach its predicted billion-user mark.

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A month after all Android users gained access to WhatsApp’s voice calling feature, iPhone enthusiasts will now get the chance to use the messaging app’s dial pad.

“Call your friends and family using WhatsApp for free, even if they’re in another country. WhatsApp calls use your phone’s Internet connection rather than your cellular plan’s voice minutes,” says the company in its app update description.

As it did with Android devices, WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook last year for $19 billion, will be slowly rolling out the feature for iOS users. While iPhone fans of the app will need to be patient, the wait will come with an array of extra goodies.

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In addition to WhatApp’s iOS 8 share extension, which allows users to share photos, videos, and links from other apps in WhatsApp, individuals can now crop and rotate videos and send multiple recordings at once. The application will also permit users to edit contacts in WhatsApp and give access to a “quick camera button” where you can swiftly snap a picture, take a video, or choose from images on a camera roll.

While voice calling through messaging apps is nothing new, this huge crowd of users, 800 million by WhatsApp’s count, has made the company a force to be reckoned with. While many Americans use Facebook’s Messenger, WhatsApp has been wildly popular in Europe and the developing world – particularly in India, where 70 million people have signed up for the service.

Breaking into the social sector is quite a feat these days, so to rack up 800 million subscribers is impressive, even if the actual number of active monthly users is a bit murky. 

As its own chief executive officer, Jan Koum, points out, there is a difference between the number of registered users and active users. According to TechCrunch, someone can use the app for five minutes over a 30-day period and be counted as an “active” user. This is important more on the business end of things, where these kinds of statistics can determine a company’s “strength and depth in local markets to make its platform appealing” for other businesses, as TechCrunch explains.

But extending revenue passed its $1 annual subscription seems to be more of Facebook’s problem than WhatsApp’s. The company has insisted on keeping the service dirt cheap and ad-free, leading many to question how Facebook will make back its money.

Setting aside the exact number of active users, the messaging service continues to grow in popularity and may hit the billion-user mark by the end of the year. But popularity means little to survival in the age of tech, and WhatsApp has been looking to expand into other forms of communication since its launch in 2009.

In January, WhatsApp Web premiered, allowing WhatsApp to be used on desktop computers, though the feature does not work on Macs. (No word on plans to make the desktop version compatible with Apple desktops.)

Allot Communications vice president Yaniv Sulkes believes it will only be a matter of time before WhatsApp, which already allows you to send files such as video, expands into video calls, as he explained in an interview with Wired.

If WhatsApp really wanted to be a go-to application for all forms of social interaction, it could also add features such as business-consumer communication, mobile payment methods, and an app platform. Unfortunately, as TechCrunch points out, that would put it in direct competition with Facebook’s Messenger, which can already do all of this, so that likely will not happen any time soon.

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