I've been on WhatsApp for so long, I can't remember my first message or call on it. As someone who was traveling the globe on a regular basis from 2004 until early this year, overtime I found more and more people I was coming into contact with outside the USA were on the free app that did the basics better than just about anything on the planet. For the past few years I've been using Signal, which is just about the best encrypted app for text, voice and video around. I've dabbled with Silent Circle, only to find that not too many of my friends use it. On the other hand, WhatsApp and Signal are loaded with friends of mine. The same with Telegram.
The trio of Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp, plus iMessage/Facetime and Duo/Hangouts have all become phone alternatives for me, and every service bypasses the traditional PSTN, and is FREE. Heck, even Slack calling has taken a large chunk of my calling life too.
But three apps that I was also using back in the 00's were RocketTalk by San Diego's Rajiv Kumar and James Tagg's Truphone's mobile app. We started working with both in the 00's. RockeTalk had everything that WhatsApp eventually had years later, but fits and starts, funding challenges, and being from San Diego held it back, all the while it was gaining traction in India. I'm convinced that had RT been in the Valley it would have been the winner. The third was TalkPlus, a pioneer in second lines on mobile phones.
Of the three, Truphone had the best success, and was the biggest threat to Skype in the 00's also. Its last versions of the mobile app, that combined on-net and PSTN calling originally pioneered on Nokia's N series, based on the Symbian OS were on all the OS'. iOS, Android and Blackberry by 2010. The arrival of the iPhone in 2007 and the development of apps for iOS in 2008 had Truphone on a path of converged calling between WiFi and 3G/4G/LTE.
Clearly the London upstart was shaking up the telecom world. A 2007 attempt by T-Mobile in the UK to block calls to and from Truphone failed, as Truphone won in court. Truphone also had secure calling way before any service other than Skype even considered it. Truphone was also a media darling, and had users all over the globe. It's SIMless calling on devices gave people a second line and features that weren't available from the mobile operators. But a shift in leadership twice between 2009 and 2014 led to its eventual pivot and Tagg's departure. The benefits the company is seeing today are a result of James Tagg's relentless inventing, and patent filings. Tagg's vision of converged WiFi and 3G/4G/LTE calling wasn't wrong. Nor was his dream of data roaming on the fly. He was just too early.
TalkPlus in the mix of being too early. They did second line on the Motorola Razr and Nokia phones, and eventually on the iPhone. They did this before Line2 and Jaxter, integraing with the dialer and receiving calls to the second number using VoIP and DIDs to redirect to the primary line.
All three companies were born in 2005/2006 and suffered though from one common factor. They were too early. Truphone, with Russian investment, has survived, pivoted to the eSIM space and is doing well. RockeTalk's found Rajiv Kumar secured his IP back a few years back but it's too little too late. Both companies were way ahead of WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram, but were just too early. TalkPlus was an enigma. Great idea, tech that worked, but challenges on direction led to it withering away.
Sometimes the dilemma of being early is the right idea. But as they say, timing is everything.