Japanese messaging app Line revealed last month its plans for a call service designed to let users “make low-cost calls to landlines and mobile phones domestically and internationally,” letting Line users call people who don’t use the chat app, with prices lower than those offered on landlines and mobile carriers, thus essentially taking on Skype.
Now the service, Line Call, is live on Android devices in Columbia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Spain, Thailand, and the US. Line users can choose between the existing free call service to other Line users, or make low-cost calls to any other number using Line Call. The company says an iPhone version is planned for the near future, while other countries will be added “once tests for call quality have been passed.” A look at the price table shows a comprehensive list of regions that Line Call will most likely be rolled out to, including China.
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Users can choose either to purchase call credit, take up monthly plans, or swap their Line coins for call credit. They can charge their call credit from the Android app or the Line Web store.
Line Call touts itself as being cheaper than competing services (the table below shows service rates for domestic calls in Japan per minute). A quick check on Skype shows that it costs ¥6.67 per minute for a 30-day plan that allows calls to Japan landlines and mobile devices for up to 60 minutes, while a landline-only plan costs ¥2.17 per minute.
As the messaging app war heats up, Line is making its move first to differentiate itself from its competitors. It is also moving into Skype’s space — and the Microsoft-owned service may have cause to feel threatened, given that Line claims 360 million registered global users.
However, WhatsApp is soon to follow. Following WhatsApp’s acquisition by Facebook in a deal worth as much as $19 billion – WhatsApp founder Jan Koum revealed that voice calling will be added to the platform during Q2 2014.