A couple of days ago, a German publication ran a story explaining what could be the next major development for WhatsApp.
According to information in the article, which was accompanied by photos, WhatsApp is set to introduce video calling in the next iteration of the messaging platform. The upcoming version 18.104.22.168 for iOS (it will be launched for Apple first) which is still in testing, will include video chat which works in the same way as FaceTime or Skype.
Just like Skype the WhatsApp video chat will also have a small preview window which allows the caller to see their own image and the same preview window will be movable across the screen. Other features like microphone muting and switching between a rear and front camera are also said to be part of the WhatsApp video experience.
There’s also going to be the introduction of multiple chat tabs which will allow a user to move between chats without returning to the chat list.
So near, yet so far for Zimbabwean mobile subscribers
Judging from the way WhatsApp has been evolving as a communication medium, this was actually an anticipated development. The platform started solely as an instant messaging tool, but a host of changes and improvements have been made with changes in content consumption and communication dynamics in mind.
Besides being able to send audio and video content as well as dynamic features like the group chats, WhatsApp took a huge step forward with the introduction of VoIP calling earlier this year.
It has managed to introduce itself to its huge subscriber base as an alternative for other VoIP services like Skype, Viber, and Facebook’s Messenger while acting as a potential disruptor to traditional voice calling across telecoms networks.
This potential disruption, plus the implications on data traffic usage, is what’s resulted in operators in Zimbabwe not enabling WhatsApp calls on their network, particularly for users who subscribe to WhatsApp bundles.
While the performance of the voice call feature from WhatsApp might be constantly improving to match other VoIP services, in Zimbabwe it still hasn’t caught on, becoming only relevant to users who rely on broadband solutions other than mobile operator’s data plans.
With mobile operators failing to make any concession on WhatsApp calls or revising broadband packages and prices to factor in changes in VoIP and data enabled communication, it’s likely that WhatsApp video calls will be another add-on feature that won’t be immediately feasible for the Zimbabwean mobile broadband subscriber.