WhatsApp is competing directly with FaceTime in its latest update, which offers video calls with end-to-end encryption. The company appears to indirectly reference the iPhone in its blog post announcing the new feature.

We’re introducing this feature because we know that sometimes voice and text just aren’t enough. There’s no substitute for watching your grandchild take her first steps, or seeing your daughter’s face while she’s studying abroad. And we want to make these features available to everyone, not just those who can afford the most expensive new phones …

The blog post says that video calling will be available on all platforms: iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

The update is expected to roll out to 180 countries ‘within hours.’ Once you have it, you can place a video call by opening a chat, tapping the phone icon and then selecting the video call option. You’ll be able to choose where on your screen to position the thumbnail video of your own camera, and switch between rear- and front-facing cameras.

WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum told Reuters that it was the company’s acquisition by Facebook that made the new feature possible.

Koum said Facebook has allowed WhatsApp to use its servers and bandwidth around the world for voice and now video. That support will help spread the souped-up WhatsApp much farther and faster, he said.

That statement may be a PR move, intended to counter negative reactions when WhatsApp updated its privacy policy to reveal that it would now be sharing phone numbers and analytics data with Facebook. At least two countries have declared this to be illegal, obliging WhatsApp to cease sharing this data, with others conducting investigations into the practice.

WhatsApp is a free download from iTunes.

Photo: The Verge

You can follow iPhoneFirmware.com on Twitter or join our Facebook page to keep yourself updated on all the latest from Apple and the Web.