Facebook's $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp looked a bit smarter today after the fast-growing messaging service announced at the World Mobile Congress that it will add phone calls within the next few months.
The WhatsApp announcement came as a surprise to those attending the mobile conference, where Nokia, Samsung, HTC and other key players also made news. WhatsApp already has 465 million monthly text and voicemail users, but wanted to add a live call service.
"We want to make sure people always have the ability to stay in touch with their friends and loved ones really affordably," WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum said at the conference, according to a CNN report from the scene. Koum said the company will roll out the service on Apple and Android phones during the first half of the year, then add the service for Blackberry and Windows phones.
Low Cost Collaboration
The move adds pressure on telecommunication companies that have found themselves competing with Skype, particularly as more workers bring the services they use personally into the office for low-cost collaboration with colleagues around the world.
Facebook, which has a market valuation of about $175 billion, saw its shares jump $2.10 to $70.69 within a few hours of WhatsApp's announcement. Earlier in the session, the stock set a new intraday high at $71.44, more than three times its value last June.
In a separate appearance at the conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the idea that WhatsApp has the potential to hit 1 billion users makes it worth what Facebook paid for it in a deal that included $4 billion in cash, $12 billion in common stock and $3 billion in restricted stock.
Zuckerberg also touted the goals of Internet.org, an industry-based nonprofit trying to extend online service in the third world. According to USA Today, the Facebook co-founder said the efforts could lift 160 million people out of poverty through new jobs and could help save 2.5 million lives as people gain access to health information.
Samsung, the world's leading maker of mobile phones, generated most of the buzz at the show with its much-anticipated introduction of the Galaxy S5 smartphone. Analysts wonder if the phone will be strong enough to help Samsung maintain it's market-leading position or whether Samsung could falter as Motorola, Nokia and HTC have before.
The S5 features a 5.1-inch, full HD screen, with 12 hours of video playback and 10 hours of web browsing, according to the company. Its brain is a 2.5GHz processor.
HTC also launched a phone at the show, a mid-tier entry called the Desire 816 that is fashioned after its popular HTC One, but comes in a hard plastic case in a variety of colors. HTC's entry has a 5.5-inch high-def screen, Cnet reported.
Lenovo added three phones to its S-series, the 860, 850 and 660, according to ZDNet. The 860, aimed at business users, features a stand-by time of 40 days and talk time of up to 24 hours. It has a 5.3-inch screen in a metal case. Fashion-conscious users may opt for the 850, which comes in white or pink, while budget-minded users may pick the 660.
Nokia, which has been trying to make a comeback on the back of the Windows operating system, said its new Nokia X line will run on the Android system instead. Three models will range in price from $122 to $150, with the cheapest model available now and the other two following next month, The Financial Express reported.