Google could be developing a chat app to rival Facebook’s WhatsApp, targeting developing markets.
The Economic Times, citing sources close to the matter, claims that the search engine giant is set to test the messaging service in India and other emerging markets soon.
Google apparently sent product manager Nikhyl Singhal to India last month to gain a better understanding of the mobile messaging ecosystem already in place. It has also been reported that Singhal has carried out similar tasks in surrounding Asian countries.
It will be available for free, and will not require users to register with their main Google account.
India, which currently has 815 million mobile connections, up 8% from last year, is expected to become the world’s second-largest smartphone market behind China by 2019.
The decision to develop its own messaging service follows Google’s failure to acquire WhatsApp. Facebook eventually purchased the mobile chat application for $19 billion (£11.8 billion) earlier this year, but it has since been reported that Google had their own bid of $10 billion (£6.2 billion) rejected.
Google’s own service, which is in the early stages of development, could see a launch next year.
The application is expected to go against the grain somewhat by not forcing users to adopt a Google login.
Google will be hoping that the promise of a free to use app will lure some of India’s 65 million WhatsApp users over to its new service. Currently WhatsApp charges users 53 Indian Rupees (53 pence) annually after one year of use.
It is likely Google will launch the messaging service in other regions if the test run in developing markets proves successful.
And though Whatsapp is the undisputed instant messaging market leader, there several other applications that claim to serve hundreds of millions of people.
Japanese application Line has 490 million users, China’s WeChat has 438 million, and Israeli IM Viber now has 400 million, months after it was acquired by Japanese electronics giant Rakuten for £558 million.