Well, this was expected sooner or later given the explosion of services on WeChat in the recent past. The popular Chinese social media app has launched a new service called WeChat Out to allow the users to make call to landline numbers or mobile numbers at low costs and high quality.
It is offering $1 in credit to the users in the beginning along with 100 minutes of free calls to “most numbers around the globe.” The service will be available in Hong Kong, US, and India initially and will roll out to other regions in the future.
It is interesting though that another messaging app and a smaller but still popular rival Line, had also announced a similar feature back in August which is called Line Out. Well, the thing is WeChat has traditionally focussed on its home market China. There are about 650 million users on WeChat (Whatsapp has over 900 million) out of which 75% are Chinese.
Moreover, of lately, WeChat has been developing itself into an entire ecosystem of services rather than just a social media app. Table reservations, movie ticket bookings, taxi booking, hotel bookings, making payments through its wallet, food ordering are few of the services available on the WeChat platform making it one of the most widely used apps in China. In fact, the popularity is so much that people in China often trade their WeChat usernames instead of business cards.
And given the success and popularity, slowly it has started expanding itself more aggressively into other markets, introducing more relevant features on its platform. In fact, according to many experts, WeChat has more tricks up its sleeve to offer in the year 2016. No other platform offers a combination of this number of features, though Facebook has shown intentions of developing its Messenger app into something similar.
As far as calling option is concerned, WeChat is not exactly the first. Like mentioned above, Line already has this feature whereas Skype remains the pioneer of the calling feature. However, it remains to be seen if the feature can make more people in other countries adopt WeChat as their go-to communication app.
It is especially in India where it will be a major challenge for WeChat to make its calling service work. This is because the country has not exactly been welcome to such low cost calling services. Even Skype had to pull off its calling service from India due to the reported intervention by the Government.
More recently, the newly launched low-cost calling app Ringo had to suspend its domestic calling service temporarily within just a week of launch. The service was allegedly blocked by telcos in India and is reportedly also under the scanner of TRAI.