This week, WhatsApp officially opened up video calling across all platforms it supports and it was printed in bold and echoed around that — Video calls are the one feature its customers have been asking the messaging king to incorporate at its core. Well, it launched and the reception has been mixed with some praising it while others have contemplated that it is late to the game, an argument contested in equal measure.
WhatsApp joins the likes of Skype, Viber, Google’s Duo by throwing Voice over the Internet (VoIP) video calls in consumer’s hands. However, all mentioned have had a hard time breaking into the Ugandan consumer market only with a handful of downloads while some now disguise as long forgotten ghost apps, something WhatsApp has managed to overcome.
Its ubiquity and an easy to use interface have only catapulted the green messenger to unprecedented heights rivaled by non in messaging except the main Facebook app in terms of usage and install base. With it comes texts, file transfers, location sharing, group chats and a host of new features, not forgetting end to end encryption for all communication through it and now it adds video calls.
This however might prove a challenge regarding adoption in Uganda. A similar feat befell the above mentioned apps whose usage is prime at texting, file transfers but not video calls even if they’ve long offered them. Why? We’re here to answer that.
High cost of bandwidth
While we live to celebrate the cost of internet going down compared to yesteryear, it is not as cheap as elsewhere to drive massive usage of data demanding use cases like video calls, video on demand services or summarily anything video.
The cost of data is high in Uganda in averages of UGX 240,000 for a monthly 10Mbps unlimited data connection according to Numbeo and since video consumes a lot of data, this just adds insult to the injury. This renders text driven apps as destinations for most Ugandans while their video counterparts play catch up. Have you ever wondered why most people shun SnapChat? Why workaholics only use YouTube over office WiFi or ADSL/Fiber connections at office?
The same reason has curtailed an uptake the side of Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo among others with most of their users preferring to use public WiFi than their pre-paid mobile data plans.
It is the very reason that prompted WhatsApp’s parent company, Facebook to launch lite versions of the main Facebook app and Messenger. These consume far less data than their main siblings but not without sacrifices. If WhatsApp can pull off something like this, well and good.
For some couples out there video calls are not the best alternative, especially when one is not in a the location they told their spouse they’d be. Its pretty obvious that the whole essence of a video call is to not only feel get to see the facial reactions and expressions of both parties while on the call. WhatsApp video calls have an interface that allows you see the recipient the other side of the call, so this means that one has to forego some sort of privacy to attend to a WhatsApp call. You can imagine texting from lavatories and then your chat buddy decides to place a video call! Need I explain further?
While Facebook is known for catching up with friends or sort of, email for official work flow communication and attachments, Twitter for live events, news blah blah, Instagram for photo sharing, SnapChat for ephemeral video chats, well you guessed right — WhatsApp is for instant messaging that mostly revolves around texts. On the other hand, the likes of Skype have long dominated VoIP, both voice and Video. This is something WhatsApp will have to fight off to position itself as a destination for VoIP calls.
It goes without saying that tech evolves at a faster rate than we can all tell. While the aforementioned hindrances remain at large, WhatsApp might surprise us all and it charges past our expectations that video calls become a norm over its pipes.
Do you expect to use or have you already tried out WhatsApp video calls?