Yes, WhatsApp for Windows Phone has returned to the Windows Phone Store as of Friday, May 30th. WhatsApp users across the globe can rejoice as their favorite communication app is available again, after being unavailable for two weeks while bugs were addressed.
Although one can argue that communication between Microsoft, WhatsApp, and those who use the app should have been better, we cannot forget the fact that there were a plethora of angry and frustrated WhatsApp users itching for the app to become available again. We even received a flood of comments and emails asking us such.
Some emails were even demanding for the app to return. Our comment sections were filled with hate towards the Windows Phone platform, which was wrongfully accused for the app being pulled in our opinion - which we have addressed here.
But why? How can one app make the world go mad? What makes WhatsApp so special?
In mid-February of this year, Facebook announced that it would be purchasing WhatsApp for the hefty sum of $16 billion in cash and stock. The messaging app is available on a variety of platforms, including Windows Phone, Android, iOS, BlackBerry, and Symbian. It offers users unlimited messaging on mobile devices for $0.99 a year after a one-year free trial. Facebook obviously saw the interest in WhatsApp and saw a huge benefit in purchasing the messaging service. But again, why is WhatsApp so popular?
For starters, the app allows users to send messages for free over the Internet, so it bypasses phone carriers that may otherwise charge users to send texts over their networks. The app is also free to download and install. There are also no ads in the app, offering a clean interface for users to communicate with their friends or loved ones.
When you download and install the app, it will automatically scan through your phone's contacts and let you know who has WhatsApp installed on their phones. You don't have to manually add contacts. On top of that, you can send text messages, and even multimedia messages, to anyone around the world without having to worry about costly carrier charges.
The app also features group messaging, the ability to set your status (away, online, busy, etc), chat backgrounds, custom notification tones, and much more.
Okay, so WhatsApp has a nice feature list. But did you know that unlike the United States where you can have a decently priced unlimited text messaging plan, those who are in other parts of the world have to pay an arm and a leg for sending messages? Those in Europe, Middle East, Australia, and Asia are heavy users of WhatsApp due to its cost-effectiveness and features. Those of us in the United States have a decently priced unlimited text messaging option - which explains why we have a smaller WhatsApp user base.
As of April 2014, half a billion people around the world use WhatsApp.
In August of 2013, WhatsApp has 200 million users. This doubled to 430 million users by January of 2014. As of April 2014, half a billion people around the world use WhatsApp. Half a billion! "In the last few months, we've grown fastest in countries like Brazil, India, Mexico, and Russia, and our users are also sharing more than 700 million photos and 100 million videos every single day," WhatsApp mentioned in a blog post.
Pulled from the Windows Phone Store
On May 17th, the popular instant messaging service WhatsApp was mysteriously pulled from the Windows Phone Store. Neither Microsoft nor WhatsApp issued a statement at the time. WhatsApp users, who coincidentally had to reset their Windows Phone device or for some reason needed to reinstall the app, were left furious when the app was no longer in the Windows Phone Store.
Several hours later, it was revealed that the WhatsApp team and Microsoft were working closely together to resolve some bugs and a notification error. The issue must have been big enough for the app to be pulled from the Store. Either way, users were frustrated and began taking it to comments sections across the internet to voice their opinions.
"What the crap? I accidently uninstalled WhatsApp from my phone. Now I am trapped," one frustrated user complains in a post on our site. Some of the comments were borderline funny, as they blamed Microsoft and the Windows Phone platform. "Biggest mistake of my life to buy an WINDOWS PHONE..... it sucks," one user argued.
WhatsApp has done its users something of a disservice by remaining so tight-lipped about what is going on.
Mark Wilson, one of our Editors here at WinBeta, explained the issue ever so eloquently. "WhatsApp has done its users something of a disservice by remaining so tight-lipped about what is going on. If the company is able to learn anything from this, it should be that people do not like being kept in the dark. It feels to many that Windows Phone is being treated rather differently to other platforms, when in fact that is not the case," Wilson explains. "But to look at things positively, it is better to have no app for a short time whilst problems are fixed than to have a troublesome one causing issues on handsets around the world."
On May 30th, the app returned to the Windows Phone Store, adding a number of new features too, including chat backgrounds, broadcast lists, custom notification sounds and more. Turns out, the updated app offered more than just a minor bug fix and new features. Daniel, one of our readers, had this to say about the updated app:
"Ok, after trying this new version for a few hours now I have to admit, I am really impressed! Even though the version number hasn't changed that much, the improvements are huge. Opening the app/chats is a lot faster and the whole UI feels smoother, scrolling back to older messages is faster too and works without crashes. And adding the missing features of other platforms (like privacy, backgrounds, etc.) is a bonus for what I expected to be a simple bugfix-update. It really feels like a new app."
So what did we learn from this two-week WhatsApp fiasco? For starters, communication is the key. Microsoft's Joe Belfiore took it to Twitter twice, once on May 22nd and once on May 30th, to provide everyone a status update. Microsoft wasn't the culprit here. WhatsApp pulled the app from the Windows Phone Store and should have, at the very least, offered an official blog post indicating such. After all, WhatsApp writes blog posts bragging about how many people use their service, why not give users an update on the Windows Phone app too?
Secondly and most importantly, we must understand that WhatsApp is an important communication tool for those in other parts of the world. I personally have unlimited text messaging on Verizon (United States). I sent text messages and multimedia messages on a routine basis, and I never have to keep track of how many messages I send. I have no need for WhatsApp or any other messaging app, as SMS and MMS work just fine for me. Some, if not all of you in the United States, are in the same boat as me. Others, especially in India, do not have this option and rely on their 3G data plan to send messages to loved ones or friends. This is why WhatsApp is such a big deal.
I personally found it hard to avoid responding to comments from those who were frustrated about the removal of WhatsApp, especially comments that blamed Microsoft and the Windows Phone platform. While I responded to one or two of the negative comments, I quickly reminded myself to be a bit more open minded - something we all should consider doing. Frustrated people will act and speak in a frustrated manner.
With that being said, WhatsApp is available again in the Windows Phone Store. Sound off in the comments below if you believe the fiasco was handled appropriately, or if you agree with me that WhatsApp should have had better communication with its users.