Monday, 16 March 2015

First Impressions: WhatsApp calling works on Wi-fi, 3G and 2G; but lag, echo and call drops are issues

WhatsApp has activated the voice calling feature for most Android users who have the latest version of the app on their devices. The feature was activated for most users over the weekend. To get it, you will need to have at least version 2.11.528 from the Play Store or version 2.11.531 from the WhatsApp website.
According to AndroidPolice, voice-calling could be be activated by receiving a call from someone who already has the voice-calling feature. In fact, this is how I got WhatsApp calling activated on Saturday. After receiving a WhatsApp call from a friend, I closed and then reopened the app. After that, instead of seeing the most recent chats, I got three tabs, namely Calls, Chats and Contacts. The call tab showed incoming, outgoing and missed calls. Unfortunately however, it seems like the invite system has been deactivated by WhatsApp for the moment.
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The WhatsApp tab gets divided into three tabs: Calls, Chats and Contacts
So those of you who have got the WhatsApp calling feature, you can only make calls to your friends and family, but that will not activate the WhatsApp Calling feature for them.
I tried out the WhatsApp calling feature and had mixed feelings about it. For starters, this is the most eagerly awaited feature on WhatsApp. As promised by WhatsApp, the feature works smoothly on Wi-fi and 3G networks. I tried it out on the 2G network and yes, it does work on 2G as well.
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The new user interface of contact details on the Call tab
The feature isn’t without its flaws though. There is a definite lag, which makes for frustrating and confusing conversations, because of the time it takes for one party to hear what the other is saying.
Then there is the fact that when I made calls inside buildings or inside apartments, I could also hear an echo of what I was saying. This echo played back after some delay and it was also what the person at the receiving end was hearing. This echo phenomenon was absent when I was out in open areas, on roads and so on.
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The Chats tab shows you the number of concurrent unread chats
On a few occasions,  I also heard a beeping sound, in the middle of a call. On checking the phone to see if I was disconnected or the beeps were due to incoming WhatsApp messages, I could indeed see a Reconnecting symbol in the area where you see the call duration. Of course, if the person you are calling has connectivity issues or if you are in an area where phone networks aren’t the strongest, you will experience call drops.
Those who have the WhatsApp calling feature activated can make calls to their friends, provided they have the latest WhatsApp update. As for being able to activate the calling feature for others, well, I guess we will have to wait for WhatsApp to activate the invite system again.