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Phone Calls Add Value to Facebook's WhatsApp Deal

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Tom Murphy avatar

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Facebook's $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp looked a bit smarter today after the fast-growing messaging service announced at the WorldMobile Congress that it will add phone calls within the next few months.

The WhatsApp announcement came as a surprise to those attending the mobileconference, where Nokia, Samsung, HTC and other key players also made news. WhatsApp already has 465 million monthly text and voicemail users, but wantedto add a live call service.

"We want to make sure people always have theability to stay in touch with their friends and loved ones reallyaffordably," WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum said at the conference, according to a CNNreport 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 foundthemselves competing with Skype, particularly as more workers bring the servicesthey use personally into the office for low-cost collaborationwith colleagues around the world.

Facebook, which has a market valuation of about $175 billion, saw its sharesjump $2.10 to $70.69 within a few hours of WhatsApp's announcement. Earlier inthe session, the stock set a new intraday high at $71.44, more than three timesits value last June.

In a separate appearance at the conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saidthe idea that WhatsApp has the potential to hit 1 billion users makes it worthwhat Facebook paid for it in a deal that included $4 billion in cash, $12 billionin 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 USAToday, the Facebook co-founder said the efforts could lift 160 million peopleout of poverty through new jobs and could help save 2.5 million lives as peoplegain access to health information.

Learning Opportunities

New Phones

Samsung, the world's leading maker of mobile phones, generated most of thebuzz at the show with its much-anticipated introduction of the Galaxy S5smartphone. Analysts wonder if the phone will be strong enoughto help Samsung maintain it's market-leading position or whether Samsung couldfalter as Motorola, Nokia and HTC have before.

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The S5 features a 5.1-inch, full HD screen, with 12 hours of video playbackand 10 hours of web browsing, according to the company. Its brain is a 2.5GHzprocessor.

HTC also launched a phone at the show, a mid-tier entry called the Desire 816that is fashioned after its popular  HTC One, but comes in a hard plasticcase in a variety of colors. HTC's entry has a 5.5-inch high-def screen, Cnetreported.

Lenovo added three phones to its S-series, the 860, 850 and 660, according toZDNet.The 860, aimed at business users, features a stand-by time of 40 days and talktime 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, whilebudget-minded users may pick the 660.

Nokia, which has been trying to make a comeback on the back of the Windowsoperating system, said its new Nokia X line will run on the Android systeminstead. Three models will range in price from $122 to $150, with the cheapestmodel available now and the other two following next month, TheFinancial Express reported.

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