BY CHUKS OLUIGBO & ANITA OKORO
Instant messaging app Telegram has rolled out a premium tier with additional features in a move to monetize a portion of its large user base.
The firm said in a blog post on Sunday that the launch of the premium tier marks “not only a new milestone, but also the beginning of Telegram’s sustainable monetization”.
The app, which now has over 700 million monthly active users from about 500 million as at January 2021, is the first instant messaging app with hundreds of millions of users to roll out a premium tier. Its close competitors do not offer a premium tier.
The launch of its premium tier means that Telegram users across the world will be able to get premium features on the app for a fee. This includes Nigeria, where Telegram is the 6th most used social media platform as of 3rd quarter 2021, according to data from Statista. Telegram usage in Nigeria is at 50.3 percent, below Twitter (57.4 percent), FB Messenger (71.2 percent), Instagram (77.9 percent), Facebook (86.4 percent), and WhatsApp, the most used platform (91.9 percent).
Telegram said the move is also an attempt to keep its development “driven primarily by its users, not advertisers”.
The premium tier comes with a range of additional and improved features to the messaging app. For instance, Telegram Premium users will be offered a no-ads experience, be able to follow up to 1,000 channels (where free users get 500), create up to 20 chat folders with as many as 200 chats in each, and add up to four accounts in the app and pin up to 10 chats.
Additionally, premium users of the app will be able to convert voice messages into texts, access exclusive stickers and reactions and use animated pictures as their profile photos. The premium offer also enables users to send files as large as 4GB (up from 2GB) and supports faster downloads, the firm said.
Telegram did not say how much the premium tier would cost, but TechCrunch reports that the monthly subscription appears to be priced in the range of $4.99 to $6, adding that in India the premium version is priced at $6 for iPhone users.
Pavel Durov, founder and chief executive, Telegram, had said earlier in June that the move to launch a premium tier was a response to user demand for additional storage/bandwidth, a way of letting “our most demanding fans get more while keeping our existing features free”.
With the launch of Telegram Premium, Durov has pledged to keep a number of the app’s core features free to users while it continues to build new features for the non-paying users.
The firm said on Sunday that it was rolling out a feature, called join requests, that would enable all users to join a public group without the need for an invite link. Free users will also get another new feature that will make it possible for verified groups and channels to show their badge at the top of the chat. The new update also supports rendering of animations at 120 frames per second for new iPads and iPhones.
“This update includes over 100 fixes and optimizations to the mobile and desktop apps – eliminating bugs, improving speed, and expanding minor features,” Telegram said.