Etisalat by e&, the UAE telecoms operator, has launched a new app, GoChat Messenger, which allows for voice and video calls and includes a host of other useful functions.
We took the app for a spin to see how it functions and, most importantly, how those video calls work.
Here's all you need to know:
How to download GoChat Messenger
It's a simple start, because the app is available in the Apple store and the Google Play store for users of phones that run the Android operating system.
Once downloaded, you are asked to enter your phone number and go through the security verification.
The app will then request whether you wish it to sync with your phone contacts, so it can automatically find people who are already using the app.
How do voice, video and text chats work?
Very much like WhatsApp, only WhatsApp video calls do not work in the UAE.
First, text chats are almost identical to WhatsApp, with the one tick displayed to show a message has been sent, two ticks for delivered and coloured ticks to show that the message has been read. There's the usual note at the top of the screen stating that messages and calls are "secured with end-to-end encryption".
Messages sent overseas were found to take a few moments longer to be delivered.
For voice messages, it's again a case of hold the record icon, talk away and then send.
Video calling, which runs on voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology, become an integral part of daily life for much of the world during the coronavirus pandemic when working from home became widespread and friends and family tried to stay in close contact faced with travel restrictions.
However, VoIP from services such as WhatsApp, Skype and FaceTime are restricted in the UAE.
Only licensed mobile services such as Etisalat's Botim are universally available. Etisalat says that alternative internet calling platforms, including Botim, C'Me and HiU, will continue to function.
Software from Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet work in the UAE and during the pandemic provided a handy communication tool for businesses and schools.
Quality of calls
When testing it, we found that GoChat's video calling works perfectly. The picture quality and sound is clear, although that is likely to be dependent on the quality of your internet connection.
The National tested on calls within the UAE, and internationally — with international calls originating in the UAE and from Europe.
The European call took a few more seconds to connect, but there were no issues once it connected. The sound and picture were clear.
Do you have to pay anything?
No. The app is free to download, there is no subscription fee, and it allows users in the UAE and overseas to make free voice and video calls to anywhere in the world.
You don't need to be an Etisalat contract subscriber either — you need only a mobile phone number to register.
What else can you do with the app?
All sorts of things — it's like a number of separate apps rolled into one.
There's a trending news bar, which is handy for those keen to keep abreast of what's going on. It displays UAE news for users in the UAE and abroad, while there is a "Things to do" section recommending activities and events going on in the UAE.
Go Services provides several convenient services, such as booking a PCR test at your home (starting from Dh149), booking home-cleaning services, and even men's and women's salon services to your home.
Moving services can also be booked through the app, while flights, hotels and shopping are "coming soon", the app says.
Etisalat Smiles vouchers and deals can also be accessed through the app.
There is an eWallet function that allows users to complete international and local money transfers.
Is there anything else similar in the UAE?
Du offers an internet calling pack, although this is subscription based and costs from Dh52.50 per month for unlimited voice and video calls and a data package is required.