WhatsApp has been fairly busy these past few months. After rolling out WhatsApp Web Client to a decidedly mixed reception, the Facebook-owned company has been working on adding VoIP, which would help it to draw parity with Skype, Viber and the like. While the voice calling capabilities are not entirely ready for prime time just yet, work on the feature is well into the advanced stages, with the latest beta offering testers a glimpse of what’s to come. Now, for the first time, we can take a proper look at how voice calling will be baked into the WhatsApp service for iPhone.

The last few updates to the end user app have teased the notion of voice calling, with a non-functioning call button having been added only a month ago, and with the beta having come along rather nicely since then, the folks at iPhoneItalia have gone hands-on.

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With VoIP having trickled out to select Android users recently, it appears that WhatsApp has made the necessary preparations for both of the major mobile platforms, and if you’re a WhatsApp user running on Apple’s iOS, expect plenty by way of changes in the near future.

As per the iOS beta, iPhoneItalia reports that the calling feature does not notify users in any way upon initial launch. Only after a call is received by a fellow WhatsApp user is the service activated, and the VoIP conversation can begin.

The general user interface is not dissimilar to ordinary, stock Phone app in iOS. In fact, it’s almost identical, as you’ll notice from the screenshots, although keeping things simple and uniform is definitely a smart move on the part of WhatsApp’s developers. Like traditional cellular calls, you can respond to an incoming call with an preset, text-based message that you’re away or busy, and also set reminders to call said individual back after a designated length of time.

It’s fully integrated, meaning that you can receive calls when your device is locked or when you’re using another app, and this is critical to the overall experience. Essentially, it’ll work as an extension of your Phone app, except it’ll be based in WhatsApp, and, more importantly, calls made will be completely free.

It’s very impressive how WhatsApp has managed to emulate the native phone experience, and when it does eventually launch to the masses, users should take to it like a duck to water.

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As well as providing a series of screenshots, iPhoneItalia also notes that call quality is “decent,” and while it seems there’s room for improvement, it should be remembered that this is just a beta for now.

We’re looking forward to WhatsApp finally getting VoIP – not before its time, might we add – and when it does launch, we’ll have the details covered here.

(Source: iPhoneItalia [Google Translate])

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