TouchPal, the mobile keyboard application developer, today released a new version of its caller identification and mobile services app. The major update is the addition of the free voice call option. The company also announced the app has been renamed TouchPal Call (our translation).
The feature enables TouchPal users to call each other or call non-TouchPal users over WiFi or 3G/4G networks, with recipients not having to be connected. Also, users don’t have to create a Touchpal account.
Over-the-top voice calling isn’t yet widely popular in China. It is believed that there aren’t voice call options with local messaging apps such as WeChat for fear of interference from the three state-owned telecom operators.
But the explosion of internet-based communication services in China seems to have been beyond their control. Thanks already to the popularity of WeChat and similar messaging apps, Chinese telecom operators have seen significant decline in revenue from text messages.
Several Chinese voice call apps have emerged recently. The instant messaging service by China Mobile, the largest telecom operator by user base, has added a voice call option. EasyChat, the messaging app jointly owned by Chinese Internet company Netease and China Telecom, has added one too. WeChat also has developed a separate service, named WeChat Addressbook (our translation), that allows for over-the-top voice calling.
But, according to TouchPal, there isn’t another app that offers voice calls completely for free. Some which claim they are free either charge for other services or have begun charging for calls.
TouchPal launched a platform for local services on top of its caller identification app earlier this year. The company claims the app has 80 million users.
TouchPal has been working with smartphone makers such as Samsung, Huawei, Sony and Xiaomi, whose phones come with TouchPay keyboard or other apps by the company pre-installed. A couple of months ago, TouchPal announced it would stop taking fees from phone makers in order to reach a wider audience worldwide. Michael Wang, founder and CEO of the company, told me that the company would begin to monetize their user base next year (2015).