Indian Messaging App Hike Rolls Out Free Voice-Calling Before WhatsApp

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Just three weeks after announcing the acquisition of Zip Phone, India-based messaging app Hike has updated its Android app with a voice-calling feature. When Hike bought Y Combinator-backed Zip Phone, which allows users to make Wi-Fi-enabled phone calls, CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal said that it would allow the company to add free voice-calling, one of its most requested features from users, much more quickly.

Its latest Android update means that Hike has managed to add a voice-calling feature before Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which is significant because WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in India, with over 70 million monthly active users, or about 10 percent of its global user base.

WhatsApp has promised to add voice-calling features by early 2015, but it’s still unclear when exactly it will be available. A folder recently spotted in the latest build of WhatsApp, however, indicates that voice-calling—which is already available in competitors Viber, LINE, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat, in addition to Hike—may be coming soon.

The company said it will add voice-calling to its iOS and Windows Phone apps by the end of this quarter. Android users account for over 90 percent of Hike’s users.

Like other Hike features, including free SMS credits for featurephones, its voice-calling feature is designed to be data-efficient since data plans are relatively costly in India. Hike claims “our users can pack in many more minutes per MB when calling on Hike.”

Hike says it currently has over 35 million users, with 90 percent currently residing in India. The company has raised $86 million from Tiger Global and BSB, a joint venture between Bharti Group and Japan’s Softbank.