In a blog post on the WhatsApp site, the company has announced that they are rolling out their service and app free-of-charge going forward. The Facebook owned instant messaging service has nearly a billion subscribers and while the entry price of .99 Cents was not much, the company wanted to eliminate the fee all together so those without access to credit cards can access the service.
Many WhatsApp users don’t have a debit or credit card number and they worried they’d lose access to their friends and family after their first year. So over the next several weeks, we’ll remove fees from the different versions of our app and WhatsApp will no longer charge you for our service.
It is an interesting move and one that will surely heat up the instant messaging battle that is going on in the market.
The roll out of the total free WhatsApp service will be taking place over the course of the next few weeks. Users on Android and iOS can expect an app update to be coming over the course of that time to support the new free model.
Interestingly, in the post, the company goes a bit out of their way to dismiss the notion that the app will become ad supported, a natural thought for users who are use to being bombarded with adverts in apps these days. The company says that is not the case and they plan on rolling out tools that will allow you to communicate with businesses and other organizations. They use the example of communicating with your bank to discuss a fraudulent charge. If that is the case, I suspect that the business users of WhatsApp will pay a fee which, in theory, will support the free consumer users.
Perhaps more interestingly is the question of if they can attract more users. Facebook Messenger has for many people, despite them hating to admit it, become the defacto IM client on their devices. Everyone seemingly has it and it too is free.