Can WhatsApp challenge Skype with its new features?

In recent years, WhatsApp has emerged as the leader in a suite of messaging apps that are hell-bent on dethroning Skype. Following their acquisition by Facebook, they have introduced a host of features in an attempt to become a more comprehensive mobile messaging solution. While some people may argue that the latest updates are features that have been around in competitors for a while, WhatsApp users (now numbering in the hundreds of millions) have generally welcomed them with open arms.

The WhatsApp app for iOS has recently released new features such as the ability to archive conversations, add captions to attached images, and also some new wallpapers for the app. While most of these features have long been available on the Android platform, some of them are unique to iOS, such as the ability to share the slow motion videos that can be created with the iPhone 5S. Users can even trim the video to a manageable length from within the app.

One feature that has generated some criticism is the inclusion of message read receipts. Until now, users have only been able to tell if a message has been delivered to the recipient’s device with a gray double check mark. Blue check marks will now appear to indicate that the message has been read. While some users protested the privacy intrusion, others welcomed it as most other platforms offer this feature as well.

Despite these updates, WhatsApp still has a long way to go to catch up with Skype in two crucial areas: voice / video calls and a desktop app. For millions of users who are not tech savvy, Skype is the go-to app if they want to talk to other people on the Internet. Although WhatsApp had announced that it would launch VoIP calls, it has not happened even when competitors such as Google and Apple have incorporated it into their respective platforms.

Another reason for the popularity of Skype is the availability of the application for every conceivable platform, including the PC. Until now, WhatsApp has been stubbornly confined to the mobile world, which is quickly becoming a disadvantage, even though it was partly the reason for the app’s meteoric rise in popularity. For those users whose work requires them to spend most of the day in front of their computers, a desktop application is much needed. If these two weaknesses are rectified, WhatsApp may really have a chance to replace Skype.

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