Hike Airtel

Text & voice messaging app Hike has inked its first telco deal with India’s largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel to offer free access to the service for three months.

While the deal period or the terms of the partnership were not disclosed, Hike informed that this offer is available for all new and existing Airtel prepaid customers who will be able to use Hike without any data charges. For new users, the offer will be valid for 3 calendar months from the date of the app activation while for existing users, the offer has kicked in from September 1, 2013 for the next three months.

While this partnership is quite significant for Hike since it might provide them with an edge over its competitors in the intensely competitive instant messaging space, the Airtel partnership isn’t quite a surprise, since it was built by Bharti Softbank, a Bharti Enterprises group company. In fact, we are a bit surprised that it took so long for Hike to sign this partnership.

We are also a bit curious to see if Hike will be able to replicate the deal with other telcos, since we believe Hike’s competitor Whatsapp, which probably is the largest mobile Internet based messaging app and has a tie-up with Reliance Communications, will also be looking to ink similar deals with other telcos. Other players in the space include Tencent’s WeChat, Japan-based LINE, One97’s Plustxt, Micromax’s Hookup, and Imsy among others.

Redesigned Android App: Coinciding with this launch, Hike has also released an updated version of its Android app, bringing along Hindi input and localization support. However, its worth noting these features are not exclusive to the app, since Hindi localization support was introduced in Android 4.3 update and the inbuilt Hindi keyboard is available on all Android devices running on Android 4.1 or later. Google also offers a Hindi input & transliteration app for all Android devices running Android 2.2 or later. In comparison, Plustxt currently offers input support for eight Indian languages including Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati and Malayalam besides English.

Besides this, the updated version also brings in new features like redesigned home interface, chat screen and profile pages, which follows Android’s Holo UI guidelines. The home screen now features a flat interface and has three sections – updates, chats and friends.

Hike Message

What’s worth noting though is how the company plans to use the updates section. The app is currently showing self promotional messages at the top of the updates section and allows users to dismiss the message. This is quite similar to how Sponsored tweets and Sponsored stories work on Twitter and Facebook respectively. We wonder if Hike has similar monetization plans in the future.

Related:

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Why Text Messaging Will Continue To Decline In India