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Icons hidden in Instagram app hint at incoming video calling feature

Instagram could add voice and video calling functions to its service, analysis of the app's code suggests, with the presence of files and icons bearing calling-related names and imagery hinting at a possible launch of the unreleased and unannounced feature at some point in the future.

Analysis of the Android version of Instagram by Ishan Agarwal, provided to TechCrunch, revealed a selection of PNG files within the app depicting a telephone handset in marginally different ways. The names of the files, including "action_call.png" and "call.png," seemingly directly reference the potential function they relate to, namely app-based calls.

More images, showing a simple video camera icon in a few different styles, are similarly named "video_call.png," indicating that if Instagram adds audio calls, it will add voice calls too. XML files were also found, again with names referencing calls and video calls.

The possible new additions to Instagram were previously suggested in an earlier report in January, when an image for a supposed video call button was discovered. At the time, it was thought to be used for internal testing, and Instagram declined to comment to the report about the discovery.

Concerning the new collection of images, an Instagram spokesperson provided a similar response to the report, advising "I'm afraid we can't comment on this one." There is also seemingly no sign in the app's files of when it could launch, but the presence of this many files strongly suggests it is on the way, and could arrive within months.

Adding video and voice calls to Instagram would bring the app in line with main rival Snapchat. Launched in 2014, the feature initially let users who were online at the same time to instigate a video call by pressing and holding a small animated button at the same time.

Facebook, Instagram's parent company, has also offered voice and video calls to users of its social network for a considerable amount of time in its own Messenger app. It is likely that some of the technology and infrastructure powering Facebook Messenger's calling features could be implemented in Instagram's version, though it remains to be seen if the two calling networks will be able to communicate with each other or, in the case of the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, kept separate.