WhatsApp shifts iOS app to premium subscription model, adds iCloud backup


Cross-platform messaging service WhatsApp has shifted its popular Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS application from premium to freemium, embracing annual subscription pricing.

WhatsApp Messenger--available for iOS, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone and BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY)--enables users to share text messages, voice notes and photos with contacts across the globe, with no international messaging fees. WhatsApp has chosen to avoid advertising support, instead billing most users $0.99 per year after a one-year free trial period.

The iOS version was the lone exception to that approach: WhatsApp offered the app for a one-time download fee of $0.99. WhatsApp Messenger for iOS version 2.10.1, issued Tuesday, converts the app to a free download, implementing the same annual pricing structure available across Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. "We feel that this model will allow us to become the communications service of the 21st century, and provide you the best way to stay in touch with your friends and family with no ads getting in the way," WhatsApp said on its blog. "The good news for all current iPhone users is that WhatsApp will be free of charge for the rest of your life."

The updated WhatsApp Messenger for iOS also brings chat history backup and restore options leveraging Apple's iCloud storage system, as well as a new multi-send UI feature letting users share multiple photos at the same time.

WhatsApp surpassed the 250 million active user milestone last month. The firm now counts more users than Twitter, which late last year crossed the 200 million active user threshold, and is quickly closing in on Microsoft-owned OTT rival Skype, which boasts 280 million monthly active users.

WhatsApp's exponential growth poses major challenges for conventional carrier SMS services: Consumers across the globe will send 41 billion over-the-top mobile messages per day by the end of 2013, compared to an average of 19.5 billion peer-to-peer SMS, according to a recent forecast issued by research firm Informa. OTT traffic has already eclipsed SMS in terms of daily messaging volume: Consumers sent an average of 19.1 billion OTT messages per day in 2012, compared to 17.6 billion messages via SMS.

For more:
- read this WhatsApp Blog post

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