In a rather significant move, WeChat has now added a feature to call mobile phones and landlines within the app, just like how one could do on Skype. The service is being branded as WeChat Out and the feature has already been rolled out in US, Hong Kong and India. The company behind WeChat, Tencent says that it will soon rollout the feature to other countries as well.
WeChat pitches the service as “super-low calling rates” and “excellent call quality”, and as rightly pointed out by VentureBeat it will help the company to link customers’ credit cards to their WeChat accounts.
So the feature can be accessed by tapping on the ‘+’ symbol at the top right and selecting WeChat out. The service will take some time to import your phonebook post which you can dial the number directly. The company says that it would be giving away 100 minutes of free calls (worth $0.99) to most of the users, but when I tried (from India), my account balance was nil and had to top-up to use the service. It would have been nicer if WeChat had included a free minute to sample the services before actually buying the talktime.
WeChat has been trying to match pace with Skype as it had earlier rolled out video chatting services for a group of up to nine people, but now it seems that Tencent is more keen on including the new features as it plans to scale up globally.
The mobile payment system has been opened to the non-Chinese users for the first time which means that users outside China would now be able to buy stuff on WeChat by directly using their credit cards.
While I was already rejoicing that I could finally call mobiles and landlines in India from the app it stuck to me that Ringo had tried doing so and was promptly blocked out by the Telecom operators citing regulations. I tried calling a local Indian number from the WeChat app and was instantly greeted with the message “Call restricted to India due to local regulations”. Thus we could only place calls outside India, nevertheless the calling rates to US and many other countries are highly affordable. WeChat has one of the largest growing user database which had peaked at 650-Million last November. It has been the most widely used IM app in China and is now gaining foothold globally. The WeChat Out feature will act as a bargaining chip for Tencent to acquire new customers.