Ken Yeung is a reporter for The Next Web based in San Francisco, CA. He carries around a big camera & likes to write about tech, startup Ken Yeung is a reporter for The Next Web based in San Francisco, CA. He carries around a big camera & likes to write about tech, startups, parties, and interesting people. Follow him on Twitter, on Facebook, and Google+.
textPlus has announced that it is expanding its services to now allow international calls to be made right from its Android app. The mobile communications company believes that it can compete against other services like Skype or Vonage to make international calls to users’ loved ones by offering a lower rate and an opportunity to increase their number of minutes simply by participating in free things.
Starting today, any user with textPlus on their Android device in the United States and Canada can make calls to anywhere in the world — it doesn’t matter whether it’s an international mobile or landline. For those calls that are to other textPlus numbers, there will not be a charge. But for those calls outside of the network, rates start at $0.02 per minute — something that the company says is 10 times less expensive than normal international calling rates.
For textPlus, the idea of the company was never about group messaging, which is what most people probably associate it with. When we spoke with founder and CEO Scott Lahman back in October, he made the correction that it’s much more than that: “The key thing that users need to understand is that textPlus is meant to be a choice for all your communication, similar to a virtual operator.” Moving into international calling using your textPlus-provided phone number is definitely a sign that the company has branched out beyond text messages.
Lahman says that he wanted to roll out international calling because he saw that the most popular telephone routes in the world are from the United States to Mexico, India, the United Kingdom, and others — there are a lot of people calling internationally. For textPlus, it’s looking to target those people, plus those who travel abroad frequently.
Through different partnerships and thanks to the enormous volume of calls being made on textPlus, the company was able to get wholesale deals to keep its rates low.
While users can purchase minutes to use, similar to a pre-paid calling card, it’s not necessary. The company is giving out minutes for users who participate in free offers like watching a video, completing an offer such as downloading an app, or anything else — these offers come from services like TapJoy and Flurry. All minutes accrued are not permanent and will expire six months after it was last used. Users can reuse the textPlus number they were given — if the app is installed on several devices, the system knows to contact all of them, if needed.
A couple of months ago, when textPlus announced it raised $18 million from the Raine Group, one of the things that Lahman said was that the investment would allow the company to focus on international expansion — it looks like this new calling plan has helped move the company forward. To date, it has connected over 110 million people worldwide.
All international calls can be made using Wi-Fi or on a 3G/4G data plan and works on Android phones and tablets. However, when traveling abroad, if not on Wi-Fi, users may incur some additional roaming charges through their data plan.
Although this update is only available for Android devices, textPlus is in the process of updating its iOS version, which it says is estimated to launch in early 2013.
Photo credit: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images
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