Tech

WhatsApp plans to copy one of the best Apple iMessage features (and we can't wait)

One of the biggest frustrations of keeping all your chats in WhatsApp is that it’s really difficult to seamlessly move between devices. Unlike iMessage, Facebook Messenger, or almost any other messaging service, it’s tough to send a text from your smartphone, pick up a tablet to join a video call, and then reply in a group chat from your laptop.

While WhatsApp does offer a desktop app, this is essentially just the online messaging portal wrapped-up in a Windows 10 or macOS app window. You’ll even need to scan a QR code from your smartphone periodically to ensure you stay logged in and able to send or receive messages. And if you’re thinking of making or receiving video calls from a PC – forget it.

All of these quirks of the Facebook-owned messaging service (now comfortably the most popular on the planet with more than two billion users worldwide) are because WhatsApp accounts are tied to your phone number. And using the service on a device without a SIM card installed – like a laptop, desktop PC, or tablet – isn’t quite possible.

But that could finally be about to change.

WhatsApp is looking into ways for accounts to be signed-in and used on multiple devices at the same time. This might sound simple, but requires some pretty fundamental changes to the chat app. When you receive a VoIP call – should every device signed-in with your WhatsApp account ring… or just those devices with a SIM card? Should the “Last Online” status update reflect when you were last online with a single device, or when you used any of your gadgets with a WhatsApp app installed?

According to the code unearthed by @WABetaInfo – a Twitter account that trawls through beta code to find clues about upcoming features – WhatsApp will soon send a notification whenever your account is being used on another device. This’ll likely act as a security measure to ensure someone isn’t texting from your account on another device without your knowledge.

It’s important to remember that the feature is currently in the development phase. So, the Facebook-owned app, which has seen a surge in popularity following the social distancing and lockdown measures enforced in the UK, United States, and a number of other countries worldwide, might not launch the feature for a few months.

With that change to the way WhatsApp works, it finally paves the way for a fully-fledged iPad app. So, in the future, WhatsApp users will be able to pick-up calls, receive video calls and send images as they move between iPhone, Android handset, iPad and Windows 10 or macOS PCs. @WABetaInfo has unearthed a number of screenshots of the iPad interface.

The iPad app looks almost identical to the iPhone version, except that a second column showing all of your active conversations has been added when holding the iPad in landscape orientation – to make use of the vast amount of screen real estate available.

The Settings page also uses this column view. Apple’s own Messages app uses the screen real estate in a similar way.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that WhatsApp will ever launch this iPad version of its app. The multi-national company often tests new features or changes and then abandons – with the two billion users worldwide blissfully unaware of what they’re missing out on.

However, a quick search on the Apple App Store reveals dozens of unofficial apps claiming to allow iPad owners to send and receive texts from their tablet – essentially by using an app to launch the WhatsApp Web portal (similar to the current desktop apps from the messaging service) – shows there is clearly a demand for this update. Fingers crossed WhatsApp delivers.



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