Mobile video chat app Tango is continuing its content push today, with the release of new freemium-based features to enhance the mobile calling experience: avatars and real-time filters. You may remember that Tango first started its content business a year ago with the addition of “Tango Surprises,” cutesy animations used to decorate video call screens.
The majority of the now more than 200 animations Tango offers are premium content, and CEO Eric Setton said that “millions” of these are now sent every day. The company announced brand partnerships on this front in September, which introduced more kid-friendly Surprises through deals with Sesame Street, Strawberry Shortcake, and Care Bears, for example. Although the content is seemingly silly for adult users, Setton said at the time that one-third of the calls on its network were between family members, like parents or grandparents and kids.
At that same time, Tango launched its first game, a free whack-a-mole type of game called Squash. Since then, the company has added three more premium games, including TicTacToe, Checkers and ToonTag, and now 20 percent of Tango’s active users have played 20 games. “That’s pretty good for us, considering that games are only eight or nine weeks old,” says Setton. “It’s something that’s in the app that people will do regardless of their need to use the app as a utility to communicate,” he adds.
This is a part of Tango’s plan to become something more than a communications app, rather turning itself into a social network, where there is more to do besides make video calls. Today, Tango also supports text and video messaging, voice calls, and photo-sharing, for example.
But video calling is still at Tango’s core, and the newly launched features are meant to complement that part of the service by introducing added functionality. The first new feature, avatars, lets users change themselves into a character which does the talking for them. At launch, a dog and cat avatar are available, but premium characters will be added later on.
The other new feature is filters. Popularized by Instagram, a number of photo-sharing and video-sharing apps now include filters (even Twitter is adding them!), but the majority of today’s services add the filters after the fact – on the photo or video recording that’s being shared. In Tango, the filters can be used and swapped in real-time during the call. “It’s the first time we’ve seen filter in mobile video calls, and we feel good that we’re the first ones to actually put that out,” Setton says. “We use them so much internally that we think this is going to be a must-have.”
Included at launch are four filters: Vintage, Holga, Mafia or Comic. And like the other content on Tango, this collection will also be expanded at a later date with more paid options.
One other feature, also new today, is read receipts, which are available for any text, pictures, or video messages you’ve sent on Tango.
Although Setton declined to provide revenue numbers or percentage growth, he did say that the company plans to continue to invest in content. “We’re not yet profitable, but it’s a growing revenue stream. We’re excited enough about the growth on that side that we know this is a good business model for us.”
Setton was also happy to share other numbers related to growth. Tango now has over 75 million users (up from 65 million in September), and it’s growing by an average of 6 million users per month. “As we grow the service, the network effect is getting stronger,” says Setton. “And it’s not just the space that’s growing – our rankings are growing in all the stores where we are. I think we’re growing faster than the space.” On Android, for example, the app is in the top 5 social, and the top 15 in around 25 countries. “Once that [network effect] starts kicking in, it’s pretty difficult to actually avoid. It’s just going to get stronger and play more to our favor. And that’s key to this type of business,” he says.
The new features will be live in Tango on iOS and Android, as of this morning.