By: Nick Gambino
Just over two months ago at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference, we were promised voice and video group calls for WhatsApp and now it’s here.
WhatsApp hasn’t been in the calling game for long, having only added voice calling to their platform back in early 2015 and video calling later that year. They had gained popularity as a messaging app amassing over 700 million users. But despite that, they claim that their “users spend over 2 billion minutes on calls per day.” That’s an astronomical figure showing that the Facebook-owned platform is a go-to for dialing up friends and family.
For now, group calls are limited to 4 people which is a far cry from the 32 people FaceTime will allow you to have vying for attention all at once. Snapchat even allows up to 16 people for video and 32 for voice. Though the necessity for that many callers at one time is probably pretty rare. Still, I’m sure they’ll up the number in the coming months.
In order to use the group call feature, all you have to do is start by making a one-on-one call, then tap the “add participant” button in the top right to tag someone else into the conversation. It’s as simple as that.
“Group calls are always end-to-end encrypted,” the WhatsApp blog post says. “and we’ve designed calling to work reliably around the world in different network conditions.”
End-to-end encryption is exactly what it sounds like. This means all video and voice calls are secure and should be pretty resistive to eavesdropping or other nefarious attempts to pry. End-to-end encryption has been a pretty big selling point for using WhatsApp messaging, so it makes sense they’d want to keep that going.
It’s also interesting to note that they’ve rigged calling to work in spotty network conditions. We’re inferring that as long as you can connect to the internet you should be able to make a call without serious hiccups. This will come in handy when you’re on a mountain top or trying to reach a family member on the other side of the globe. Again, staying in line with what makes WhatsApp so popular.
The new group calling feature is available in the iOS and Android version of WhatsApp. It started rolling out to users on Monday so if you don’t see it yet, just be patient.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Gambino is a regular script writer and tech beat reporter for NewsWatch. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.