Google is apparently preparing to launch a WhatsApp competitor, according to reports. The Mountain View based company sent one of its product managers to India last month to analyse the messaging situation in the country, and as a result, they’re now supposedly working on a WhatsApp competitor.
Remember the crazy WhatsApp acquisition by Facebook? Valued at more than twice the Nokia Devices & Services acquisition by Microsoft, Facebook acquired the mobile-only messaging app for a whopping $19 billion dollars in a cash and stock deal, which was just recently approved by the EU, apart from others.
WhatsApp has been a runaway hit in India. Last time the numbers were out, India accounted for 10% of active WhatsApp users, standing at a cool 60 million. The fact that WhatsApp runs on Nokia’s S40 phones apart from smartphones based on Symbian, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and iPhones since at least 2010 has helped the company immensely.
Publications like BBC have used WhatsApp to keep their readers in India abreast with election updates during the General Elections held earlier in May. Price comparison sites like MySmartPrice are using this platform as a tool to help users compare prices of phones. Many traders and professionals use the app to collaborate with their clients. If someone has an internet-enabled (smart)phone in India, chances are they also use WhatsApp. It’s the first thing I install every time on my phones.
Google already has one IM app called Hangouts, but up until recently, a Google+ account was mandatory to make use of this app. Apart from that, Hangouts doesn’t use your mobile number to tie you into the service. WhatsApp, on the other hand, makes use of your mobile number and your phonebook. It’s also exclusive to phones – in spite of the ever-growing demand to make it work on desktops and tablets, the company hasn’t given in to the pressure, thereby retaining its status as an SMS replacement app.
WhatsApp’s intuitiveness and no-nonsense approach is the reason it has so many fans. Hangouts, on the other hand, has been a total opposite of intuitiveness. It doesn’t help that the mobile app is a laggy piece of shit although Google has the advantage owning a widely used OS.
Google has been focusing more on India after Sundar Pichai took over their reigns of Android – the recently launched Android One devices, plans to make YouTube videos available offline in India first, and now plans to use India as the testing grounds for a WhatsApp competitor. Now, it’s time to sit back and see how Pichai goes about these projects.