Looks like after messaging, adding cheap voice call feature is the next move for most of the popular messaging apps. After WhatsApp’s recent announcement of jumping into voice call feature, LINE Corporation, the owners and operators of the free mobile messaging app LINE are also following the same route. Japan based app backed by Line Corp, a unit of South Korea’s biggest Internet search provider NHN Corp has launched its newest feature: a flat-rate voice calling service called LINE call.

According to the company, it expands on an already existing feature in LINE that let users call each other free via the app. The feature which is available only for Android works across users in eight markets — Colombia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Spain, Thailand, and the U.S., who can download version 4.1.0 to access the service. The company plans to expand to other countries in the near future.

First introduced in February, Line Call has only gone active since yesterday. The prices of the calls published  state that landline calls start at 2 cents per minute and progress up to 12 cents per minute. Mobile calls range from 4 cents through to 15 cents per minute.

Line, which has more than 340 registered million users (as of February), also announced that it is offering users two ways of paying for calls, either via call credits that you pre-pay for in advance (similar to Skype), or with 30-day voice plans that entail a fixed number of minutes for each month.

With this global roll out, Line might be looking to expand its revenues which made $ 156 million last quarter, $120 million of that from its core product, the LINE messaging app but it also jumps into a very competitive market with the likes of WhatsApp, Viber, Nimbuzz, Skype, among others.

With more than 465 million active users, WhatsApp had recently announced that it plans to jump into voice calling business too. While the numbers go in the favour of WhatsApp, the messaging app now has the support of Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook. WhatsApp has always opted for telecom support as carrier billing since it is the most preferred choice in emerging markets, which also saw Mark having a secret dinner with the wireless carrier executives in Barcelona.

Viber that was also bought last month by Rakuten has always been in the voice calling business. It recently stated that it isn’t worried about WhatsApp entering the voice call market as it has a superior technology.

Line has a decent presence in India and with the smartphone penetration spiking up, the company should be rolling out the feature pretty soon. However, a lot of it would depend on if it goes with carrier billing like Nimbuzz is planning to roll out a similar tie up in the coming days.

This article is republished with permission.


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