Uber has updated its mobile app with a new way for riders and drivers to talk with each other: VoIP. The new calling feature is akin to Skype, but exclusively for users who want to chat with their driver in a personal manner. The new feature joins the existing ability to send SMS and in-app text-based chat messages.
Though a perfect pickup is one in which no calls are necessary, sometimes a driver may get lost or have trouble locating the rider. In those cases, the driver can call the rider using a private phone number; there’s also the ability to send texts and in-app chats.
Riders may ignore their driver’s call, though, due to not recognizing the phone number. Swapping details in text messages can be tedious, particularly if the two are trying to coordinate their positions. That’s where the new in-app VoIP calling feature comes in.
Calls over data rather than voice also come with the benefit of letting riders connect over WiFi. This is particularly useful in countries where the rider may not have data service, as well as for individuals without an active mobile plan. In some parts of the world, making VoIP calls is cheaper than using voice minutes, as well.
The company started testing an in-app VoIP service back in June, according to The Verge, which reports that Uber confirmed the global launch of the feature during a conference today.