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WhatsApp brings free calls to iPhone

iPhone 6 Plus Lightning port

WhatsApp provides another means of avoiding nasty roaming charges for voice calls

Popular messaging service WhatsApp has extended free voice calls to iOS devices. Introduced in the company’s Android app last month, the service allows users to place and receive calls from any of their contacts using the data connection.

The calls are, of course, only truly “free” if you don’t incur any extra 3G/4G data fees for exceeding your data cap. Unlimited data tariffs are increasingly rare, although users can of course take advantage of Wi-Fi connections to make the calls. However, WhatsApp doesn’t provide an option to only place/receive calls when connected to Wi-Fi.

Still, the ability to make calls over Wi-Fi may be particularly attractive to people travelling abroad this summer, who can use the hotel’s Wi-Fi rather than incur expensive roaming fees to make calls back home. Some hotels still block other VoIP applications, most notably Skype, potentially giving holidaymakers another means of avoiding such restrictions.

Even though the voice calling feature is included in the latest update to WhatsApp for iOS, the release notes state that “WhatsApp Calling is rolling out slowly over the next several weeks”, suggesting the company is carefully managing the rollout to ensure the service doesn’t collapse under the weight of voice traffic. In our brief tests of the Android voice calling feature last week, there was a notable lag in conversations, although the call quality was largely fine. 

Other new features in WhatsApp for iOS include the ability to share photos, videos and links from other applications with your WhatsApp contacts, an option to quickly snap a photo or video during chat sessions, and the ability to rotate video messages before sending them. 

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