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[Rumor] US Mobile Carriers Won't Like this: Google To Install WhatsApp On All Androids

Aaron Tilton
6

The big four– AT&T, Verison, T-mobile and Sprint– might not be so friendly with the Android OS soon. Word has reached AndroidPIT from reliable sources that Google is planing to install WhatsApp, a free text messaging service, on every phone shipping with the popular Android mobile OS.

Text Messages– The holy telecom cash-cow
For telecos, this isn't good news. Text messaging is big business for all major providers and accounts for a sizable portion of their profits. Among the Big Four national players, texting brings in an average of $8 per month per customer in revenue and generates about 25% of raw operating profit (excluding equipment subsidies). With a carrier cost of one-third of a penny, when a customer pays 15 cents to send a message, 98% of that 15 cents is pure profit.

Growth in message traffic slowed for the first time to single digits — 8.7% — in the last half of last year compared with the previous six months, according to U.S. wireless trade group CTIA, but it is still important to these carriers' bottom lines. And the days of such heady profits might be gone entirely if the current crop of rumors pan out.

WhatsApp– More than free text messaging
WhatsApp is currently available for all mobile operating systems and users of the free system can exchange text messages quickly and most importantly without any additional costs as long as their messages go to other Whatsapp users. The service is functionally identical to text messaging services as all sent texts arrive in real time, when users have a web connection. If a user is logged out for any reason then messages are saved and delivered when he or she signs back in.

But the service offered by WhatsApp goes beyond traditional text messaging as there is no character limit and multimedia content can also be incorporated into the message–free of charge of course.

With millions of users, WhatApp's model could threaten traditional text messaging
Whatsapp is used by millions of people world wide, but the major hindrance to a real telecommunication revolution has simply been its availability; users couldn't be sure that their friends and family were using the service, forcing them to use the trusty text messaging service that we know and love.

But when Google automatically installs the app with all of their mobile Android distributions WhatsApp will suddenly be presented with a 40% market share among mobile users. And that's just in the US. And – oh yeah– did we forget to mention that international messaging is also free? Coupled with half a million new users a day, the probability that my conversations partner is also a Whatsapp users is growing daily.

If and when the new service really takes off, it would mean a major revenue loss for traditional mobile providers. According to AndrodPIT's source, the traditional telecos know of Google's plans and are “hopping mad”. And who would blame them? This would mean removing one of the central planks in their business model. Texts are cheap to process and expensive to send meaning they are a gold mine for the telecos. And Google is eyeing to take that goldmine away from them. 

Is Google looking to buy WhatsApp?
If Google is really aiming to preinstall Whatsapp, it appears the first move is an attempt to buy the company if they haven't already done so. Otherwise there is no clear motivating factor in preinstalling the app.

What are Google's plans?
This latest rumor also seems to hint that Google is planing to make their debut as an independent telecommunications provider. There have already been sightings of Google branded SIM cards in Spain bolstering the claims. A free communications service likes WhatsApp would make sense if Google is actually planing a move like this. Connecting all the points, it seems logical to claim that Google is attempting to position itself as a mobile phone provider in the middle term. It was, after all, only two years ago that Google boss Eric Schmidt declared the “Mobile first.” strategy, which has become Google's guiding rule.

That Google is giving it their all is easy to see; Just take a look at their Android phones and Chrome notebooks. All of their most recent products are dependent upon mobile internet access. And don't forget Google has bid on mobile spectrum in the past.

This is all adding up to a dish that I don't think traditional mobile providers will much care for. After the world was introduced to Google-rola a few short weeks ago, do we have to get ready for the International States of Google?

What do you think?

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Comments

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  • Michael Heller Sep 29, 2011 Link

    No source, no sound reasoning, just more link bait.

    Google already has Talk, Voice, and Messenger (formerly Huddle), so what's the point of this?

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  • red dragon Sep 29, 2011 Link

    Gtalk already covers most of this not to mention there are a ton of SMS apps that are cross platform that off a ton more options. Other then Google packing this into Android from here on out I don't see a point.... I mean I can cut my service and just run WIFI and use fring that offers all that and phone service.... kinda odd, but at the same time I don't really care much lol

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  • Aaron Tilton Sep 29, 2011 Link

    @Michael... When your information actually comes from a face to face conversation its a wee bit difficult to post a link to it. Though if you figure out how to do please let me know! That would make my work so much easier. We'd love to write down exactly what our source was, but if you are told a conversation is off the recored then the source has a legal expectation to personal privacy.

    While there are other services that offer something similar, we feel this is a further expression of a tendency that seems to be making many people in the industry nervous. Steven Levy author of "Inside the Plex" recently stated that he expected Google to make a 2nd attempt to buy broadband spectrum in the near future which given their more recent focus on voice would make sense. However, if they do do that then their level of vertical integration though out the telecom industry would be most comparable to Ma Bell before the 1984 DOJ mandated brake-up. I also wouldn't consider it too labored of a comparison; Google execs were recently called to testify because of anti-competition practices. If you look into the history of the Bell System brake up it was a just such a lawsuit from the early 70's that brought about the companies legal problems and it was also an expression of the problems that extreme vertical integration can cause. But that's just one of the opinions in the AndroidPIT offices.

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  • red Sep 30, 2011 Link

    Using twitter can be used instead of texting thru your phone provider the same results, no?

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  • Bruce Sep 30, 2011 Link

    but those times I don't have data but still want to send a message will still use texts. I doubt it'll be that big of a force due to the whole non tech crowd lol. I believe this app would need configuration and some just don't want to deal with it. I will check it out though...I do like the idea behind it.

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  • Sven schubert Sep 30, 2011 Link

    interestingly, providers in Ireland have already moved on from the SMS cash cow of days past. free network txt & calls being the standard with free any network txt used for differentiation.

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