Premium X users can now make calls

26 Oct 2023

Image: X

While the calls feature promised by Musk is now available on iOS devices, it’s only for premium subscribers and there’s no sign of encryption yet.

X, formerly Twitter, has started rolling out an audio and video calling feature as it attempts to become an ‘everything app’.

While initially available on iOS devices, X said that audio and video calling will be rolled out to Android devices soon. Only premium subscribers can make calls. However, all accounts, irrespective of their account type, will be able to receive calls.

Users can control who can call them from the direct messages settings section on the app. X said that the default setting allows accounts that a user follows or people in their address book, if the app is able to access it, to call them.

Meanwhile, in order to call someone on X, a user must have sent them a direct message through the app at least once.

About two months ago, when Elon Musk first announced the audio and video calling feature, he said the idea was to turn X into a “global address book” that won’t require a user to have someone’s phone number to call them. “That set of factors is unique,” he said at the time.

Musk also clarified in response to a question in the replies to his post at the time that the functionality will not come with encryption like WhatsApp or Signal initially.

“We will add the ability to turn encryption on or off dynamically. There is necessarily a slight lag for encryption,” he wrote. “Most of the time, encryption isn’t important, and quality of call is better.”

Competitors in the audio- and video-calling space such as WhatsApp and Signal highlight end-to-end encryption as one of their most important features. Even Messenger, Meta’s messaging app connected to Facebook, is getting an encryption upgrade.

To make an audio or video call through the X iOS app, users can tap the envelope icon to open their messages, select an existing conversation or start a new one, then tap the phone icon and select between audio and video to start the call.

“The account that you call will receive a notification that you’re calling them and if they don’t pick up they’ll get a notification that they missed a call,” X said.

Last week, X began testing an annual $1 subscription service for new users in New Zealand and the Philippines. The subscription is designed to combat bots and spammers on the site while “balancing platform accessibility” with the fee.

X has also been in hot water with the EU this month after the bloc launched an investigation over the alleged spreading of disinformation on the platform about events in the ongoing crisis in Israel and Palestine.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic