Update: Uber spokesperson has just issued an official statement in response to this new feature. The statement states, “Uber India is testing a pilot which allows riders and drivers to make calls using their data network to each other through the app as a VoIP. Currently, this is operational in Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi NCR, and Bangalore. The feature was announced last fall, and is already available in many countries.
Uber India has added a new feature that offers free calls between the rider and the driver. With the new feature, Uber is tapping into VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) to enable voice calls through the Uber app. The feature was first announced globally back in October last year, and is now being rolled out to all users in India. While the feature adds ability to make VoIP calls, Uber riders in India will continue to be able to make regular voice calls using the cellular network, like they have been doing for now.
Alongside the option to make free calls using internet for its riders, Uber has enabled the feature for its driver partners as well. This means, Uber drivers can also make free calls to riders. According to Uber, the aim is to enable riders and drivers to communicate with each other for free and it will also allow them to keep their mobile numbers private. The feature reportedly started appearing for Uber users in India from Saturday evening, and we also saw the new change on our applications while booking Uber.
How Uber’s free VoIP calls work
Starting with this update, whenever you book a cab and click on the calling button to reach your driver, Uber will offer two options. The first option is a standard call that relies on your mobile network. The second option is dubbed as ‘Free Call’, which uses the VoIP system to place call. Once you tap on the option, the Uber app will ask you to grant permission to access the microphone of your device. Once the permission is granted, Uber will start the call and you will see a screen with name of your driver along with a timer for the call.
At the time of setup, Uber says call without sharing your number, which makes this feature an additional privacy layer into the application. Like a standard calling interface, you get additional controls to mute the audio or turn on the speaker. There is, of course, the End Call button to end your active call with Uber driver. Consider this as Skype calls re-imagined for business purpose and integrated with Uber accounts.
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When you make a VoIP call through the app, your Uber driver won’t be able to see your name or your phone number and the caller is simply identified as ‘Uber”. The same applies when the driver calls the rider and it can be seen as safeguarding your phone number. The best use case of this feature would be for travelers who may not have a local number to make voice calls and can now use a Wi-Fi hotspot or wireless data to place calls to their Uber driver.
Uber drivers, on the other hand, can now call their riders without leaving the main app. The feature, however, raises concerns of how Uber processes these voice calls and whether these calls are being recorded for monitoring purpose. We will have more clarity on this but for now, Uber users can call their drivers and vice versa without having to rely on their mobile network.