Google introduced its Android One program earlier this year, which focuses on building budget-friendly, solid quality smartphones for the developing world. Back then, the search giant made it pretty clear that, with help from manufacturers, it wanted to create a big splash in emerging markets — such as India, where the first Android One devices were revealed last month. But a rumor suggests Google’s next step is to build what it couldn’t buy when it lost out on messaging king WhatsApp to Facebook. Is now claiming the company from Mountain View has started working on a messaging app of its own that will head to emerging markets first, before potentially launching elsewhere.
According to the Economic Times of India, Google is working on a service similar to WhatsApp, which is very popular internationally with over 500 million monthly users. Google lost out to Facebook’s $19 buyout of WhatsApp earlier this year.
While WhatsApp is popular in the U.S., it has a bigger following internationally, as it allows people to bypass sending SMS messages, which in many countries are more expensive than here in the states.
Citing sources familiar with Google’s plans, The Economic Times says the purported service will “likely” launch in 2015, noting that it’s still in the early stages of development. One key way it might differ from the existing Hangouts service is that it wouldn’t require a Google account to login, and unlike WhatsApp, it would be entirely free to use. Hooking the service up to Gmail may have helped Google get messaging users in the US, but competing with Whatsapp and its ilk (WeChat, Line, Viber) may require more flexibility and support for different devices.