Telegram has amassed over 700 million monthly active users and is introducing a premium tier with additional features as the instant messaging platform pushes to monetize some of its large user base. The company hasn’t disclosed how much it charges for the premium tier, but the monthly subscription seems to range from $4.99 to $6.
The premium tier adds a number of additional and improved features to the messaging app, which reached more than 500 million monthly active users in January 2021. Telegram Premium allows users to send files up to 4GB in size (previously 2GB) and supports faster downloads, for example, Telegram said.
Paid customers can also follow up to 1,000 channels from 500 free users offered and create up to 20 chat folders with up to 200 chats each. Telegram Premium users can also add up to four accounts in the app and pin up to 10 chats.
The move is the Dubai-based company’s attempt to keep its development “primarily driven by its users, not advertisers,” it said. It’s also the first time an instant messaging app with hundreds of millions of users has introduced a premium tier. Signal, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Apple’s Messages, and Google’s Messages, some of Telegram’s top competitors, don’t offer a premium tier.
Telegram founder and CEO Pavel Durov said earlier this month that the move to introduce a premium tier was aimed at responding to user demand for additional storage/bandwidth.
“After giving it some thought, we realized that the only way to offer more to our most demanding fans while keeping our existing features free is to make these increased limits a paid option,” he said.
Some analysts had previously hoped that Telegram would be able to monetize the platform through its blockchain token project. But after several delays and regulatory issues, Telegram said in 2020 that it had abandoned the project and offered to pay back $1.2 billion it raised from investors.
In March 2021, Telegram raised over $1 billion from a range of investors including Mubadala and Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners through the sale of 5-year convertible bonds prior to the IPO.
“Today is an important day in Telegram’s history – it not only marks a new milestone, but also the start of Telegram’s sustainable monetization,” the company said in a blog post on Sunday.
In India, the premium version costs $6 for iPhone users. Alex Barredo, a Spain-based technology commentator, reported that the monthly cost is €5.49 ($5.77). A Telegram spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Premium users also have the ability to convert voice messages to text, access exclusive stickers and reactions, and use animated images as profile photos. You will also be offered a no-ads experience. (In some markets, sponsored news is featured in large, public, one-to-many channels.)
Durov is committed to keeping a number of core features in the app free for users, while also continuing to develop new features for the non-paying audience.
On Sunday, the company announced it was rolling out a feature called Join Requests, which would allow anyone to join a public group without requiring an invite link. Another new feature aimed at free users will allow verified groups and channels to show their badge at the top of the chat. The new update also supports rendering animations at 120 frames per second for new iPads and iPhones.
“This update includes over 100 fixes and optimizations for the mobile and desktop apps – fixing bugs, improving speed and adding minor features,” Telegram said.
In a note to customers in May this year, analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein reported that Telegram is becoming “increasingly competitive” with its features. “While WhatsApp and Messenger still account for the majority of messaging app downloads in our select group, Telegram has taken a significant share of both apps, especially Messenger,” they wrote.