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Japan’s Line Passes 200M Global Downloads Of Its Messaging App But Still Isn’t Reporting Monthly Actives (Original)

Line downloads growth

Line continues its apparent growth tear. The mobile messaging app that’s extremely popular in its home market of Japan has announced it’s passed the 200 million global registered users mark, some two years after launching. Line passed 100 million users back in January.

It should be noted that the 200 million figure is not monthly active users but rather refers to app downloads – combined for Line’s iPhone/Android/Windows Phone/BlackBerry/Nokia Asha/feature phone apps. The company also does not break out sent/received monthly messages, which is another useful metric to judge messaging app engagement. However it has previously told TechCrunch the proportion of active to registered monthly Line users can be as high as 80%.

That active peak is likely to be in Line’s Asian stronghold markets,  like Japan, rather than the international markets it has since expanded to — including the U.S. and Europe, however.

Line competes with a raft of mobile messaging apps — including the veteran WhatsApp, which last month announced it had hit 250 million monthly active users. While relative newcomer, China’s WeChat, now has a registered user base of around 300 million — of which it reports 190 million are monthly active users. If Line continues to eschew reporting its monthly active users it’s hard to escape the conclusion it’s struggling to match the engagement levels of its biggest rivals.…

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The Granddaddy Of Messaging Apps, WhatsApp, Finally Goes For A Subscription Model on iOS (Original)

whatsapp

While messaging has become a veritable war with apps like Line, KakaoTalk, WeChat, Path and Facebook Messenger across Asia and Western markets, there’s been one longstanding app that’s presided over the space with very few apparent changes.

WhatsApp, the Sequoia-backed messaging app that dominates in Europe and that is often tipped as an attractive acquisition candidate for companies like Google and Facebook, just went freemium finally on iOS. The app has been paid for years on the iPhone at a $0.99 price point.

But today it went free with an annual subscription fee of $1 after the first year. This isn’t really a surprise as CEO Jam Koum talked about this several months ago. It brings WhatsApp’s business model on iOS in line with other platforms like Android, BlackBerry, Nokia and Windows Phone.

The paid app business model is really a vestige of an older era when developers would sell their work up-front. But over time, many paid apps have made the switch toward going free with paid features. Games really triggered this wave, but other high-usage apps like messaging have gone for a freemium strategy.

Japan’s Line, for example, made $58.9 million in the first quarter of this year in Japan through in-app purchases and sales of stickers — which apps like Path and Facebook Messenger have subsequently copied.…

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Vonage Co-Founder And VoIP Pioneer Jeff Pulver’s Next Call: Zula, A WhatsApp For Business (Original)

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Today, whether it be via Skype or Gmail, making phone calls over the web has become part of our daily routine. While the name may not ring any bells for younger generations, Jeff Pulver is one of the pioneers of that very technology we take for granted. A co-founder of Vonage, one of the biggest and earliest VoIP companies around, Pulver is a self-described futurist, serial entrepreneur and long-time evangelist for VoIP technologies. But lately he’s been largely absent from the space he helped create.

But now the Vonage co-founder is throwing his hat back into the ring as an entrepreneur with Zula, a startup and app by the same name that aims to revolutionize team communication for an increasingly mobile world — for those who’ve grown up on smartphones and social networks.

Put simply, Zula, which is still in stealth, is one of that class of business products that is looking to capitalize on the surge of consumer apps that younger people, weaned on smartphones instead of rotary dials, have used for their first forays into virtual communications with others. Pulver wants Zula to follow them into the working world. No surprise then that they’ve privately been calling it the “WhatsApp for businesses

To do that, Pulver has teamed up with co-founder Jacob Ner-David, a serial entrepreneur and communications technology veteran in his own right, who, among other things, co-founded Delta Three, a VoIP provider that he led through a $1 billion IPO on NASDAQ.…

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Google Brings Voice Calling Back to Gmail, Now Under Hangouts (Original)

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Gmail users who upgraded Google Talk to Hangouts back in May were up in arms after discovering that doing so removed the ability to make voice calls. Google addressed this issue on Tuesday after it finally introduced voice calls to Hangouts.

"For those of you who have taken the plunge and are using desktop Hangouts in Gmail, Google+ and the Chrome extension, we've heard loud and clear that you miss the ability to make calls from Gmail, so today, we're happy to announce it's back," Alex Wiesen, a senior software engineer, wrote in a blog post.

Citing new features such as adding multiple phone numbers and video participants to the same call, as well as playing sound effects with the Google Effect app, Wiesen said the newly dubbed "Hangouts calling" is "better than before." He added that calls to the U.S. and Canada are free from countries where Hangouts calling is available, while international rates are reasonably priced Read more...

More about Google, Gmail, Voice Calling, Voice Calls, and Google Hangouts

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Viber Is Testing New Revenue Models, Value-Add Features By Integrating With Traditional Telephony (Original)

viber

Viber has just confirmed to TechCrunch that it is running an extremely limited test that would allow Viber to act as a “call terminator” — which refers to the carrier that offers the last (and most expensive) leg of an international call’s three-part process.

Along with offering Viber the ability to add new features to the free calling/messaging app, over 200 million users strong, this would also offer the Israeli-based startup an opportunity to monetize its entirely free service.

Right now, Viber offers free Viber-to-Viber calling with the option to complete the call through your carrier should the intended recipient be Viber-free. The app also offers free Viber-to-Viber messages with the same back-up plan via carrier.

CEO Talmon Marco mentioned this spring that monetization was on its way, but that it wouldn’t be with ads. Rather, Viber will offer value-added paid features to users, which founder Talmon Marco expressed would be “coming soon” in an interview with TechCrunch.

He also mentioned that deals with carriers were a solid option, wherein carriers could promote Viber in an effort to sell larger data plans. In fact, Viber recently signed a deal with an Indonesian operater called Axis to do just that. But in April, Marco also said that partnerships where Viber offered enhanced voice calling over a carrier network would be a viable option for a shared revenue stream.…

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Skype Passes 100M Android Installs and Launches Redesigned 4.0 (Original)

Just recently, we reached a major milestone. Skype for Android is now installed on over 100 million phones worldwide. And we’re so thankful – reaching such an achievement would be impossible without the support of our users, and we continue to put you and your needs at the heart of everything we do.

Today we’re bringing 100 million of you a step further on our journey into the future. Last week we discussed how Skype’s Mobile Future demands a modern design that puts conversations first, focuses on quality & performance, and delivers a common set of experiences across multiple platforms and devices. Today, we’re excited to deliver in two of those areas with the all-new Skype for Android 4.0.

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Modern design, putting conversations first.

We started to reimagine what Skype would look like back when we launched our Windows Phone 8 app late last year. Our focus was simple: we wanted to deliver an app that makes your interactions easier and puts conversations first. Our Android team saw this great work and wanted to deliver an equally bold, beautiful, and modern design in this latest Skype for Android release.

We’ve completely redesigned Skype for Android to be faster and easier – especially when you’re trying to fire off a quick message.

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Skype’s Mobile Future: A Few Thoughts on the Road Ahead (Original)

Skype was founded under the simple principle that “the whole world can talk for free,” and I’m not sure any of us could have imagined the remarkable effect this would have had in our daily lives. From millions of young families sharing their weekly video call with proud grandparents, to connecting students around the world with Skype in the Classroom, to bringing families together of all kinds – Skype has become a fundamental part of how the world communicates.

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Lindsay Clang Portrait

That said, when you ask people “What’s Skype?”, pretty often the answer you’ll get is “it’s a free video calling app for your PC or Mac.” We love that; that got us to where we are today. But, as we all know, the world has changed. People’s computers are just as much in their pockets as on their desks, and Skype has grown up right along with this increasingly mobile world. Here’s a few things you may not know about us:

  • At certain points in the day, there are more people using Skype from their phone or tablet than from a PC.
  • Each month, the growth rate of new users coming to Skype on a tablet or phone is double what it was the year before.

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Line Expands Its Mobile Messaging Empire On Android With Third-Party App Downloads Incentivised By Line Coin (Original)

Line

The new breed of mobile messaging apps — Japan’s Line and China’s WeChat, to name two — are already siphoning off social energy by adding features traditionally associated with full-fat social networking such as in-app walls where their users can post status updates and photos. Line has also been pushing to become an entertainment hub in its own right, by adding richer content such as apps that extend its brand into areas like gaming. Today, it’s pushing its Android app ecosystem even further by adding an incentivised third party app discovery feature.

The new feature is called Line Free Coin, and is aimed at allowing Line to promote third party apps to its 170 million+ user-base — with downloads incentivised by virtual currency which users get when they install one of these apps. The virtual currency can then be used within Line’s ecosystem to pay for other goods, like its paid for stickers (“stamps”), thereby keeping them even more engaged within its ecosystem.

Here’s how Line describes the workings of the new feature:

Users will be introduced to sponsored apps carefully selected by LINE, and given “LINE Coin” virtual currency upon install. Using “LINE Coin”, users are able to exchange the virtual currency for paid stamps.

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WhatsApp popularity continues to grow, hits 250 million active users (Original)

Cross-platform messaging service WhatsApp continues to grow in popularity, with the company announcing this week that its user base recently crossed the 250-million mark.…

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Skype Video Messaging – Catch Up Whenever, Wherever (Original)

Skype is all about keeping people close — but even the best technology can’t solve the problem of busy schedules or missed calls. Want to say goodnight to your kids while traveling, but you’ll be up in the air? Need to wish your dad a happy birthday, but can’t seem to catch up? Spot something interesting while you’re out and about, and want to share with your friend?

Skype can help you connect with the special people in your life—even when your schedules conflict.

We’re excited to announce that video messaging is now coming out of preview as a full-fledged (and free!) feature in Skype for Windows desktop, Skype for Windows 8, Skype for Mac, Skype for iPhone, Skype for iPadSkype for Android and Skype for BlackBerry. Just like the millions of users around the world who have already previewed video messaging, you too can now record and share a personal video message, even when your friends and loved ones are not available. The best part is that they’ll be able to view your video message as soon as they sign into Skype. Skype Video Messaging is easy and convenient, and only the contact you’ve chosen to receive your message can view it.…

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