Businesses may soon be able to chat with you over WhatsApp, according to report

whatsapp
prykhodov/123rf
WhatsApp may soon allow businesses to chat directly with users. The popular messaging service is reportedly testing the new feature with companies affiliated with startup incubator Y Combinator, according to Reuters.

If successful, courting businesses could provide WhatsApp with a sorely needed revenue stream. Since being acquired by Facebook in 2014, the service has eliminated its one, dependable source of income — an annual $1 subscription fee for all users — and failed to introduce any alternatives.

Shortly after retiring the fee, WhatsApp expressed interest in leveraging its billion users to attract corporate clients to the service. Facebook Messenger provides a good example of the direction WhatsApp appears to be heading. The competing communications app has long been promoted as a way to connect businesses with people for purposes beyond advertising, citing customer service as a primary goal. WhatsApp hopes to follow suit in this regard, and make the feature as beneficial to users as it would be to businesses. For example, retailers could use the app to relay a shipment tracking updates, and banks could use it to notify customers about fraudulent charges.

The company doesn’t expect to get there overnight, however. WhatsApp is wary of the new business-focused tools being abused as a conduit for spam. According to the report, the company is distributing surveys to its users, asking them if they’ve spoken with businesses yet and whether or not the quality of their experience on the service has suffered because of it.

Businesses, however, appear far more optimistic. Umer Ilyas, the founder of Cowlar Inc., one of the startups involved in the testing phase, told Reuters that communication over WhatsApp could be a huge boon to his company. Cowlar makes smart collars for cows that monitor their behavior, offering actionable data to dairy farmers.

“It represents a huge opportunity,” Ilyas said, “because in all the big dairy markets — India, Brazil, Pakistan — a lot of farmers have access to the app.

India and Brazil are two territories in which WhatsApp is most successful, so it’s no coincidence the company is angling toward a plan that could be particularly effective in the regions in which it already dominates market share among communication apps.

Product Review

DJI's dual-screen Osmo Action is a serious attempt to dethrone GoPro

With two screens, screw-on filters, and a very GoPro-like user interface, DJI's first real action camera takes a stab at dethroning the king. And it just might succeed.
Smart Home

Pick up two Google Home Minis for just $58 at Walmart for Memorial Day

Walmart cut the Google Home Mini 2-pack price by 25%, lowering the per-unit cost of the entry-level Google Nest Home smart speaker to less than $30. Keeping the Google Home Mini price low attracts new users to the smart home platform.
Mobile

FCC chairman and commissioner support the T-Mobile and Sprint merger

T-Mobile and Sprint are getting closer to merging. After a few failed attempts, the two companies announced their merger at the start of 2018. The new T-Mobile could be better positioned to take on the likes of Verizon and AT&T.
Home Theater

Spotify is quietly turning itself into a storytelling platform for artists

As it seeks to protect its gains in subscribers and provide more ways for artists and creators to engage with audiences, Spotify is testing out its own version of the popular Stories format with a new feature called Storyline.
Mobile

Realme starts selling phones in the U.K., and its low prices aren’t fiction

Realme, a Chinese smartphone manufacturer from the same group as OnePlus, Vivo, and Oppo, has launched its first device in the U.K. and Europe. The Realme 3 Pro is a competitively priced phone with an impressive specification.
Mobile

The best OnePlus 7 Pro cases to keep your OnePlus in one piece

The OnePlus 7 Pro is OnePlus's latest flagship killer, and it's an incredible phone. But it's expensive, and it's not going to protect itself. Get solid protection in the style you want with the best OnePlus 7 Pro cases.
Deals

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, the best Android tablet in the game, is now $152 off

Apple dominates the tablet market, but others are catching up: The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, our favorite Android tablet, proves that these devices have what it takes to compete with the iPad Pro -- and it's on sale right now for just $498.
Mobile

Here are some common Kindle Fire problems, and how to fix them

Is your Amazon tablet giving you grief? Is it refusing to behave the way you expect? Take a deep breath -- everything will be fine. Here are some widely reported Kindle Fire problems and a few possible solutions to go with them.
Mobile

Unleash your inner artist with the best drawing apps for the iPad Pro

The best drawing apps for the iPad Pro turn Apple's robust tablet into a canvas worthy of a true artist. Here are 20 of our current favorites, whether you're looking to keep things simple or take your art to the next level.
Gaming

The best iOS games you can play offline on your iPhone and iPad

Even though we're always glued to our phones, we don't always have access to Wi-Fi or have steady service. Whether you're on a flight, riding the bus, or sitting in a waiting room, you can always play these excellent iOS games.
Mobile

Google’s new $999 augmented reality smartglasses are ready for business

Google unveiled Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2, a new version of its business-focused augmented reality wearable. The company's smartglasses ship with a faster processor, an updated camera, and safety frames from Smith Optics.
Mobile

The Commerce Department implements a temporary reprieve to Huawei

Google has severed most of its partnerships with Huawei, after its addition to the "Entity List" of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Future Huawei devices will lose access to the Google Play Store, Chrome, and Android updates.
Deals

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for May 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for May 2018.
Mobile

Some Pixel 3a owners say their new phone is randomly shutting down

Some owners of Google's new Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL smartphones are complaining that their devices are randomly shutting down. The mid-range handsets hit the market just two weeks ago.