Home Apps The (maybe not so) obvious phone solution: WhatsApp

The (maybe not so) obvious phone solution: WhatsApp

by Fiorella

Everyone knows WhatsApp, everyone texts with it, but not everyone recognizes this app’s great potential for international phone and video calling.

This time we’ll learn more about WhatsApp as a cost-saving phone call alternative, and a comparison to the fall-back option of using “traditional” phone calls still being available.

Whatsapp 101

WhatsApp is by far the most prominent mobile messaging app, with currently over 5 billion installations on Google Play store only. That is equivalent to saying that every smartphone user in the Western World is reachable via WhatsApp, making it a very widely accepted choice.

The ability to make both phone calls and video calls has been around since 2015, and further sophisticated features were added since then. These include “one-way” voice messages via the traditional text chat, group chats, phone and video calls, and desktop PC support. Among its advantages we can find:

  • It is available for free on the Google Play Store and on the Apple App Store.
  • Ability to communicate all over the world as long as you and your interlocutor are both using this app.
  • It allows you to send messages, make voice and video calls from your smartphone for “free”. When you’re connected to a WiFi network, services won’t cost you a cent. Otherwise, you’ll be consuming data from your mobile network.

Main requirement: Two people with WhatsApp on their phones plus a data connection

The downside of WhatsApp is that it is not possible to contact phones or people that do not have WhatsApp, limiting its use to mainly personal communication. Although the app explicitly offers the possibility to create business accounts, its use is not quite extended yet all over the world.

The app also offers a web extension called WhatsApp Web, making your account accessible from every modern browser. Further, WhatsApp provides apps that can be downloaded from the WhatsApp homepage and installed on your PC if running Windows 8, OS X 10.10 and their respective next versions.

However these extensions do not replace your smartphone and cannot be used on their own, but instead, need to connect with your phone with WhatsApp installed and running. Even worse, none of these currently support phone or video calls.

Charges on your phone bill with WhatsApp

On recent, up-to-date networks, the call quality provided is decent and the mobile data usage is also reasonable. A phone call costs around 0.15 MB to 0.20 MB per minute on 3G networks or better, that is to say to around 2MB for a 10-minute call.

If you still have to use a 2G network (which may still be the case in certain countries or at sea), the amount of data used surprisingly increases to 0.35MB per minute, along with a considerable amount of lag.

Video calling is even more expensive regarding data usage. The actual rate depends on many factors, but as a guideline, you can plan with about 5MB data usage for a 10-minute video call. Therefore it is simply a question of finances whether it is sensible to replace standard national phone calls by WhatsApp calls. In short, it depends on the cost of phone calls versus the price tag for your data connection.

Privacy and security for WhatsApp users

Those concerned about their privacy or worried about big corporations selling their data may be skeptical about using this app since Facebook purchased it WhatsApp. Also, some there are scandals around the app, as it seems to be a very attractive target for both criminals and secret services due to its popularity.

Although Facebook claims that communication is securely encrypted and can only be read by the desired recipient, WhatsApp still remains a proprietary product. Therefore, users are not able to directly verify Facebook’s claims, but eventually simply ending up trusting the company.

Is WhatsApp available worldwide?

Despite its huge number of active users, WhatsApp is not available everywhere. For example, it is permanently banned in China and was temporarily blocked in several other countries. These decisions are just governmental attempts to fight communal violence, forcing the company to abide by national legislation or to enforce additional taxes from their according citizens.

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