WhatsApp has had a busy 2019, and it’s only been three months into the new year. The Facebook-owned instant messaging app has already launched several new features for iPhone and Android users both. Apart from new features like Tipline, WhatsApp Web PiP improvements, Reply Privately feature for iPhone, and the restriction to forwarding chats, WhatsApp has also rolled out its Business app for iPhone users in seven countries. Apart from these features, a host of features like a new privacy setting for group invites and the ability to download a single sticker were also spotted in beta testing.
We take you down memory lane to recap all the things WhatsApp rolled out in 2019, all the things that were spotted in beta testing, and all the things that are under development.
New WhatsApp features (stable version)
1. WhatsApp Business app for iPhone global rollout
After testing it out for a significant amount of time, WhatsApp started rolling out the Business App for iPhone users in seven countries, including India. It is now officially available in a total of seven countries, namely India, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, the UK, and the US. It will be made available across the world in the coming weeks. To recall, the WhatsApp Business app is a standalone app targeted at small businesses looking for a quick and efficient way to connect with their customers. WhatsApp Business for Android has been available for a year now. If you live in one of the countries mentioned above, you can download the app from App Store.
2. WhatsApp Tipline feature introduced
In a bid to crack down on fake news ahead of the general election in the country, WhatsApp unveiled its ”Checkpoint Tipline” feature where people can check the authenticity of information received. People in India can submit misinformation or rumours they receive to the Checkpoint Tipline on WhatsApp (+91-9643-000-888). Once a WhatsApp user shares a suspicious message with the tipline, Proto’s verification centre will seek to respond and inform the user if the claim made in message shared is verified or not. The response will indicate if information is classified as true, false, misleading, disputed or out of scope.
Proto has since clarified the tipline is essentially a research project, and is “not a helpline” that will respond to all of the users’ queries on WhatsApp. Gadgets 360 shared a number of links and few photos with the Checkpoint tipline, but haven’t received any response yet apart from the automated replies.
3. WhatsApp Web PiP mode improvements
WhatsApp introduced Picture-in-Picture mode for desktop users last year, but at that time, it only worked for the videos shared by the users themselves. With an update in February, WhatsApp Web users got the ability to use Picture-in-Picture mode for all video links, with support for Facebook, YouTube, Streamable, and Instagram video links introduced. This feature came with WhatsApp Web version 0.3.2041 update.
4. WhatsApp Business on Web and Desktop improvements
To mark the first anniversary of the launch of WhatsApp Business app, WhatsApp introduced quick replies, labels, and chat list filtering on the Web version as well as the desktop clients of the Business app. These features were already available to WhatsApp Business users on mobile, but since January, these can now also be used on the Web version as well as WhatsApp desktop apps.
5. WhatsApp limits forwards to 5 chats globally
To combat fake news on its chat platform, WhatsApp limited the forward feature to just five chats. This feature was first rolled out to Indian users in July last year, and in January, the company rolled it out to all users globally. This change came as part of WhatsApp’s aim to maintain the image of a ‘private messaging app’ rather than one infamous for the spreading of fake news.
6. WhatsApp for iPhone gets Reply Privately feature
In the first week of 2019, WhatsApp rolled out an update for iPhone users, bringing many new features like Reply Privately support in WhatsApp Groups, ability to add stickers to photos and videos, and 3D Touch support to preview a contact’s status. The Reply Privately feature allows the participants of a group to reply privately to a chat in their 1:1 chat. To use the feature, the WhatsApp users will have to tap and hold a message in a group chat and select More, then select Reply Privately. Android users got this feature last year.
7. WhatsApp for iPhone gets Sticker Support in Media
In the same January update, WhatsApp also introduced the ability to add stickers to media for iPhone users. Tap on the smiley icon while editing a photo or a video to add stickers to media. It is quite simple to use and lets users drag and drop the stickers to the desired spot in the photos and videos. Earlier, the messenger app only supported adding emojis, text, free-handed drawings on the photo and videos and three content stickers – Analog Clock, Digital Clock, and Location.
8. WhatsApp for iPhone gets 3D Touch to preview Status
In addition to stickers in media and reply privately, WhatsApp for iPhone update also got the ability to use 3D Touch to preview a contact’s status in the Status tab. The preview screen also lets the user Mute a status if they desire. It is important to note here that not all iPhone models support 3D Touch. Apple had introduced the 3D Touch support back in 2015 with the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models. iPhone SE and older iPhone models don’t include the support for 3D Touch. The iPhone XR also doesn’t include 3D Touch, with Apple choosing to go with Haptic Touch instead, and this tech offers similar UI options as regular 3D Touch.
9. WhatsApp for iPhone gets biometric authentication support
WhatsApp for iPhone v2.19.20 brought along the anticipated biometric authentication that allows users to lock the WhatsApp on their iPhone models by deploying the native Face ID or Touch ID. You can lock the WhatsApp app with Face ID or Touch ID by going to Settings > Account > Privacy > Screen Lock. Once you moved to the Screen Lock screen, the app shows the available authentication method – either Face ID or Touch ID – that you can enable to lock your WhatsApp. You can also choose whether you want the biometric authentication requirement immediately or after an interval of a minute, 15 minutes, or an hour.
WhatsApp still allows users to reply to messages from notifications and answer calls, without requiring biometric authentication. Also, once unlocked after successfully detecting the correct biometrics – either through Face ID or Touch ID feature – the instant messaging app opens access to all your messages. This means the latest development doesn’t lock your WhatsApp chats on an individual basis.
10. WhatsApp for Android adds group call shortcut
WhatsApp for Android v2.19.9 introduced a dedicated call button in group chats – something that is already available for iPhone users since last year. The newly introduced button can be used to make group calls by adding the participants all at once from a slide-out tray containing the contact cards of all members in a group. Here, you can tap on the names of people you want to participate in your group voice or video call.
New WhatsApp features (beta version)
1. WhatsApp Privacy Setting for Group Invites
WhatsApp is working on a new privacy settings for Groups, helping prevent spam group invites that have been a pain point for many users. The new settings are available in the Android beta and iPhone beta apps, and you can use these versions in case you’re keen to experience it ahead of its official rollout. The new feature is visible in v2.19.93 beta for Android, and the v188.8.131.52 beta for iPhone. The feature has been announced for the stable apps as well, and while it is currently only available with select users, it will be rolled out globally over the coming weeks.
The new privacy settings for WhatsApp groups invites is meant to help users choose who can add them to groups. It can be accessed by going to Settings > Account > Privacy > Groups. Here, you can select between Everyone, My Contacts, and Nobody. If you select the Nobody option, you’ll have to approve joining every WhatsApp group to which you’re invited. However, the My Contacts option will enable users you have in your address book to add you to groups. There will also be the Everyone option that won’t add any restriction.
2. WhatsApp Forwarding Info enabled
WhatsApp beta 2.19.87 update this month enabled the Forwarding Info feature. All users who updated to this beta version could see the number of times a message has been forwarded. However, this information is available only when you are the sender of a message that has been forwarded to multiple users. This can be checked by long-pressing the forwarded message and tapping on the information icon (‘i’ in a circle) at the top.
3. WhatsApp Consecutive Voice Messages feature
WhatsApp Android beta v2.19.86 brought along a new feature called Consecutive Voice Messages. As the name suggests, this feature allows for auto-playing of two or more voice messages sent one after the other. This feature was enabled last month, after being a work-in-progress since November last year, and you will need to be on the above mentioned beta version (or the latest beta) to use it.
To test this feature once you are on the latest version, ask a friend to send you multiple voice messages. Play the first voice message and the second one should automatically play, after the first one ends. We tested it out and it works seamlessly on latest Android beta.
4. WhatsApp Short Link feature for iPhone
For iPhone users, WhatsApp rolled out the Short Link feature with Business beta version 184.108.40.206. The feature is already available on both the regular Android and WhatsApp Business for Android apps, and is finally being tested on iOS. Using the new Short Link feature, the business can access a short wa.me URL to share with its customers, so that they can start a WhatsApp chat with the organisation. Once you’re on the latest version, head to Settings to find the Short Link section.
5. WhatsApp Transgender Flag Emoji introduced
WhatsApp beta for Android version 2.19.73 brought an emoji showing a transgender flag. You need to go to the flag emoji section from the emoji menu to see the transgender flag that sits alongside the LGBT and UN flags. Gadgets 360 was able to independently verify the presence of the new flag on the WhatsApp beta build.
6. WhatsApp for Android redesigned Settings menu
WhatsApp for Android beta v2.19.45 introduces a redesigned ‘Settings’ menu with a slightly different layout and has also brought new icons for a variety of tools. The update brings relocation of certain tools, new icons and the way information is displayed on the screen. The first noticeable change is the addition of a ‘Payments’ option on the main ‘Settings’ page which shows a history of payments and details of the linked bank account. The update also brought tweaks to the ‘Network Usage’ page that now shows the memory usage status with details such as date and time, as well as the total amount of data sent and received by users.
7. WhatsApp for Android Download Single Sticker option
WhatsApp Android beta version 2.19.33 added the ability to download a single sticker from a pack. Earlier, a WhatsApp user was forced to download the entire sticker pack even if the person just wanted to use a single sticker from that pack. There was no option to download one sticker individually and leave out the rest. This download single sticker feature has now been made live with the latest beta update and is set to come in the stable update soon.
In order to use this download single sticker option, you must be using the latest WhatsApp for Android beta version 2.19.33. After downloading the update, open the in-app WhatsApp Stickers Store and long press on a sticker in a not-yet-downloaded stickers pack. WhatsApp will then prompt to ask if you want to save that sticker as favourite. It will show you the download size of the single sticker and offer a download option at the bottom for saving the sticker in the app.
This new feature is very useful, especially for those who want an uncluttered stickers menu with only the relevant ones showing up. It also saves precious data for all the limited pack users.
8. WhatsApp’s new Shared Media Options
WhatsApp for Android beta v2.19.18 revamped the options users see in the Media section of individual or group chats. Users when browsing photos in the Media section will now see new options if they tap the three-dot menu button. These are ‘Show in Chat’, ‘Set as…’ and ‘Rotate’. The first option lets you see where that particular image or video was shared in the individual or group chat.
‘Set as’ isn’t actually new, but instead of individual options for images to be ‘Set as profile photo’, ‘Set as group icon’, and ‘Use as wallpaper’, the menu has instead been simplified, and users can now tap the ‘Set as…’ overflow menu to see ‘My profile photo’, ‘Group icon,’ and ‘Wallpaper’ as the target locations. Finally, the ‘Rotate’ option isn’t new either, but instead of ‘Rotate left’ and ‘Rotate right’ seen in previous builds, users can tap Rotate multiple times to achieve the same effect.
9. WhatsApp gets 21 new emoji designs
WhatsApp for Android beta v2.19.21 brought new emoji designs for 21 emojis. The emojis that don new designs include puke emoji, kiss emoji, tongue-out emoji, heart-eyes emoji, french fries emoji, and more.
New WhatsApp features (spotted in development, disabled by default)
1. WhatsApp Dark Mode
WhatsApp is working on Dark Mode, and traces of it have been spotted in varied beta versions. The most recent beta v2.19.87 and v2.19.82 for Android give us a look on how the black colour scheme will look in the ‘Profile section’ Settings, and on the Status bar once the feature has been enabled.
But it appears that the “Request Account Info” and “Two Factor Authentication” are among a few sub-sections that won’t get the dark colour scheme when the dark mode has been enabled, but it might change with the upcoming beta builds. It is worth mentioning here that these are just traces spotted in the code and the dark mode feature has officially not been rolled out for beta testers. At the moment, there is no word as to when the dark mode will arrive on WhatsApp for Android via a stable or beta update.
2. WhatsApp Picture in Picture Mode v2
Inside the WhatsApp Android beta v2.19.86, Picture in Picture improvements was also spotted. The PiP mode allows allows users to watch videos, hosted on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Streamable in-app. PiP version 2 will also allow users switch chat without closing the PiP video bubble. Users cannot switch chat without closing the video currently, and WhatsApp is reportedly now working on fixing this limitation. Furthermore, the next version of PiP mode will also allow WhatsApp users to watch a video in PiP mode even when the app is running in the background.
3. WhatsApp fingerprint authentication feature for Android
WhatsApp Android beta app version 2.19.83 revealed traces of a new Authentication feature were spotted. The company has been working on bringing this feature since a while now, and this update showed that WhatsApp has made a lot of progress. Unfortunately, this feature is disabled by default, so it won’t work for beta users as of yet. It remains unclear when WhatsApp plans to roll it out for the stable version users.
As the name suggests, the Authentication feature will let WhatsApp users lock their account, and unlock it using a fingerprint sensor. This feature should be enabled in Settings > Account > Privacy > Use Fingerprint to Unlock. Once it’s enabled, WhatsApp will register your fingerprint. It will then ask if you want the app to be locked immediately (after you leave the app)/ after 1 minute/ after 10 minutes/ or after 30 minutes.
WhatsApp will show a sign indicating to users that they needs to unlock the app using fingerprint authentication. It will show an error if the app is not unlocked after multiple tries. Notably, iPhone users already have the feature in the stable version of the iOS app, and apart from fingerprint authentication via Touch ID, facial recognition via Face ID is also available to them.
4 WhatsApp Frequently Forwarded label
This new feature was spotted in WhatsApp Android beta version 2.19.80. The Frequently Forwarded label will show up if one message has been forwarded more than four times. WhatsApp looks to add this feature to help the user to understand when a message is very popular on WhatsApp. The tracker notes that the Forwarding Info feature does not seem to be available when a message is set as Frequently Forwarded. While the Forwarding Info feature has been enabled in beta, this one still remains ‘disabled by default’.
5. WhatsApp’s in-app browser
In March, WhatsApp Andriod beta version 2.19.74 was spotted to feature an in-app browser every time the user tries to open a link shared over the app. This feature is disabled by default and still under development. The feature is being built to detect unsafe pages using the “Safe Browsing” feature which was added to Android 8.1 last year. It would alert users when a page is infected with malicious content.
6. WhatsApp Search Image feature
WhatsApp for Android is reportedly also testing a new feature to let users search images that they received or sent to their contacts. The new feature, which is apparently called ‘Search image’, would use Google to search for the images directly from a WhatsApp chat. The Search Image feature is yet to make way to the instant messaging app, but has been spotted as disabled by default in WhatsApp beta for Android version 2.19.73.
7. WhatsApp Advanced Search feature
WhatsApp is working on a separate ‘Advanced Search’ feature that will allow users to search for photos, links, audio, GIF images, and even videos, apart from the usual text search that is already enabled. The Advanced Search feature will also show recent searches as well. Notably, the Advanced Search image feature is separate from the Search Image feature reported above. As mentioned, this feature is still under development, and will roll out to all iOS beta app users in a future update.
8. WhatsApp algorithmic feed for Status
WhatsApp is reportedly working on a new layout to show status updates that will drastically change how stories are populated in the feed. The current iteration of WhatsApp shows the status updates in the order that they were posted, but the company is now experimenting with the idea of an algorithm-driven feed that will list the status updates based on relevance, instead of the existing reverse chronological order. WhatsApp has reportedly begun testing the new feed layout among a small group of users in certain regions.
The new algorithm will reportedly give preference to those contacts whose status updates are more frequently viewed by the users. The algorithm will also take into account the frequency of interaction with a particular contact before positioning the status update by the person at a particular location in the feed. Priority will also be given to contacts whose status updates, the users are most likely to view, based on the past interactions. WhatsApp is reportedly testing the algorithmic status update feed with a small set of users on the iOS platform. The experiment is limited to some users in Brazil, Spain, and India.
9. WhatsApp for Android tests sending 30 audio files at once
WhatsApp for Android is reportedly getting a redesigned section for sending audio files. The new redesigned audio files section is said to have the ability to add as many as 30 audio files at once. Presently, WhatsApp allows users to send only one audio file at a time. The redesigned section also reportedly lets users preview the audio and image (if available) of the file before sending.
The redesigned audio files section was a part of the WhatsApp beta for Android version 2.19.1. However, the new experience is currently disabled by default, and should be enabled sometime in the future.
We discussed what WhatsApp absolutely needs to do in 2019, on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.