Truecaller, the app that helps screen spam calls and messages, is becoming a chat app as it continues to develop into a social service.
The company announced today that it is introducing a chat feature to its Android and iOS apps, although it is already live for Android beta users.
The move follows Truecaller’s recent foray into payments. That’s a localized push in India — Truecaller’s largest market based on users — based on the acquisition of startup Chillr in June. Beyond adding person-to-person transfers and bill/utility payments through that deal, Truecaller is preparing to allow third-parties to integrate their services into its app. In that context, adding chat makes a lot of sense.
The feature could actually be quite handy for Android users. A Truecaller representative explained to TechCrunch that it will work much like Apple’s iMessage — messages sent between Truecaller users will be handled in the app for free, while messages sent to non-users will go over as SMS, which is supported by the app.
Truecaller also said its move to add messaging will help combat “fake news,” an issue that has plagued WhatsApp in India. The company said it’ll rely on its community to vet and report links via a reporting button, and there are plans to add AI and machine learning to the process.
While it is doubtless correct that Truecaller has a strong community — the information used to identify spam SMS and phone numbers inside the app comes from community reporting — but it remains to be seen if the proposed solution will be much different to what Facebook and WhatsApp have talked up. Truecaller won’t have dedicated fact-checkers either. It’s strategy may work within smaller circles, but if the app gains a lot of traction it remains to be seen how it’ll manage the false information problem.
The messaging feature is global, but it promises to make the biggest impact in India, where it highlights how a number of different companies are converging on messaging and payments from very different starting points.
WhatsApp, which claims 200 million users in India, is moving from chat to payments; payment specialist Paytm added chat earlier last year and it just enabled SMS; while Truecaller came from spam detection into payments and now chat.
While it is smaller than WhatsApp it has more users than Paytm’s 120 million monthlies. Truecaller boasts an impressive 100 million daily users, 60 percent of whom are in India, a representative confirmed. With chat, Truecaller will hope to grow that number further still before it opens its platform to third parties. That could happen before the end of this year, or in early next year, the company told TechCrunch.
Note: The original version of this article has been updated to provide Truecaller’s India-based user numbers and correct that its payment feature covers bill and utility payments.