Messaging app Line launched its paid-for international calling service for Android users first, but now it has quietly expanded the Line Call service to its iOS app and made it available in an initial 10 countries, which includes the US.
Line’s calling debuted in eight countries (on Android) last month, and now Line users with Apple devices in Columbia, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Spain, Thailand, Argentina, Australia, Malaysia and the US can sign up too. The Japanese company already provides free voice and video calls between Line users, but this service allows for calling ‘out’ to landline and mobile numbers across the world.
The calling service was first announced in February and it competes with Skype’s Skype-out service, Hong Kong-based messaging app Maaii and Viber, the messaging app acquired by Rakuten for $900 million which introduced paid calling plans last year.
There are a few different plans on offer. Line users can choose either to purchase call credit, take up monthly plans, or swap their Line Coins — the company’s virtual currency — for call credit. Calling credit can be bought from inside the mobile apps or from the Line Web store, which is only available in a limited number of countries right now.
Line, which has over 400 million registered users, touts its call service as being cheaper than competitors — 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.
In more minor news — although it may be important to some — Line has added a further 1,000 new emoticons to its iOS app, bringing parity with a recent Android rollout. Combining that with its many sticker packs, and users have plenty of more ways to connect with their friends without words.
In addition to diversifying its business with Line Call, the company has also opened a creators market which lets anyone upload and sell stickers across its service. Neither new launch is likely to be a wild money-maker — that’s gaming, which accounts for 60 percent of Line’s revenue — but they are features that might help it increase user engagement and get noticed in the crowded messaging space, particularly in challenging markets like the US.