WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world, used by over 1.2 billion people worldwide and 200 million in India alone. Despite its success, the Facebook-owned company has not become complacent and always keeps the competition on its toes by releasing new features every few weeks. 2017, of course, saw the overhauled WhatsApp Status (an aping of Snapchat), but there have been many other small updates this year that didn't get as much attention. From increased media sharing limit to video streaming, we take a look at all the new WhatsApp features released this year alone. While going down this memory lane, we’ve ranked features in the order that we feel made the most impact (or will make, if in beta) in user experience.
Perhaps, one of the most important updates this year, the new Status feature was rolled out to all users globally in February. The new WhatsApp Status feature replaced the old text form of status to allow users to change their status to a short video or multiple photos that will automatically disappear in 24 hours. Even though this feature was clearly introduced to combat Snapchat competition, it overhauled the way users interacted on the app daily.
This change is significant because WhatsApp is one of the primary platforms for media sharing after an event, get-together, or any social meeting where pictures and videos are taken. The media limit was first at 10, and this increase to 30 was a welcome change by all users. It was first spotted in Android beta in January, but was later rolled out on all platforms eventually.
WhatsApp is also testing a feature that allows users to play YouTube videos within the app. This means you will be able to watch the video without leaving the app; the video can be viewed in either picture-in-picture mode or full-screen mode. Moreover, the window can be moved around. If you want to browse through other messages inside the same WhatsApp chat, or hide the video on the side. Notably, the video playback does not continue when you change the chat. There is one more caveat to the feature as it is only available for iPhone 6 and later models.
This feature is still not out in the stable version, but has been spotted on various occasions. It’s important on a chat app because it lets you recall sent messages. The feature in the many possible forms it could arrive would allow users to recall or 'unsend' messages they have been sent to their contacts, or even edit them. The feature, was earlier seen on iPhone beta version, and was also spotted recently on WhatsApp Web as well.
This feature was rolled out in February to all users as an optional security feature. With this feature, users are now able to verify their number when they install the app on a new device more securely. Users will have to provide a six-digit passcode (created by them using this feature) when registering their phone number with WhatsApp again - or any attempt to verify their phone number through the app. To know how to setup two-step verification, follow the step-by-step guide here.
The company is slowly rolling out support for all types of file transfers (including archives) on Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone with a limited number of users, removing any hindrance of file sharing on WhatsApp. This new feature will now allow you to share video in a wide variety of formats, MP3 songs, or even APK files for that matter on WhatsApp. The file sharing limit will still be at 128MB on iOS, 64MB on Web, and 100MB on Android.
While WhatsApp had this ability on Android for a while now, iPhone users finally got it in January. This ability to queue messages even when in areas of poor or no connectivity was a big miss for iPhone users, as it prevented them to send messages at all in areas of poor connectivity. Now, all users can just send a WhatsApp message to a group/individual even when connectivity is unavailable, and the message will be sent automatically once they get connectivity again.
After the introduction of the new Status feature, support for the old Text Status feature was ended. This created a huge uproar among users, and the feature was then brought back on popular demand. The feature is now available for iPhone and Android users both.
WhatsApp introduced some nifty features to elevate media sharing. This includes photo bundling into an album, video streaming, and photo filters. The Photo Bundling feature allows users to send photos and videos to your contacts as an album. WhatsApp users can now send a bunch of photos to their friends, who will receive them bundled as an album and not as before, one after another. Once the album is opened, all images are shown on a single page. The feature is already available for iPhone users and is in beta for Android users.
The video streaming feature was first spotted in Android beta, but was rolled out in the stable version to iPhone users first. This feature allows its users to watch shared videos while they're being downloaded in the background. It will use your Wi-Fi or cellular data to buffer a shared video, while it's still in the downloading process in the background. Earlier, WhatsApp users had to wait until a video gets completely downloaded to watch it - depending upon WhatsApp auto-download setting.
Recently, WhatsApp also added the ability to add colour filters to the media that you send in chats for iPhone users. Head to WhatsApp, go to the individual or group chat that you want to send the media to, capture or select a photo, video, or GIF, and swipe up. Swiping up will pull out five photo filters that you can choose from. These are Pop, B&W, Cool, Film, and Chrome, but we expect WhatsApp to add more in the future.
For iPhone users, WhatsApp recently introduced a new night mode feature for its camera for low-light photography. Interestingly, the Night Mode icon appears by default only when the camera sensor detects low-light conditions, and not otherwise.
In April, WhatsApp also gave more abilities to Siri. Four key highlights include - you can ask Siri to read out your latest messages; visual improvements to the Calls tab, Contact info, and Group info screens; ability to select multiple statuses at once in the My Updates screen which you can forward and delete; and support for Persian language.
Another iPhone-only feature was the Quick Reply feature that allowed users to reply to an individual just by swiping right on a specific text in chats. This reply shortcut is particularly useful in group chats where you speak to multiple users at once.
To improve the basic handling of chat and the way you communicate with the screen while chatting, WhatsApp has made several tweaks this year. Most notable is that Android users got a new separate video call button and saw the relocation of the attachment button. Earlier, the video calling feature was hidden within or grouped with the voice calling button, and one would need to tap twice in order to choose video calling from a pop-up menu. The attachment button was relocated to the bottom within the text bar. You'll now see the little attachment feature right next to the camera icon in the text bar. Notably, the text bar too got a new look with rounded corners rather than the square-shaped box of old.
With the new Pinned Chats feature introduced in May for Android users, WhatsApp allowed pinning of up to three contacts on top of rest of the conversations. WhatsApp is also testing a new feature that lets you send multiple contacts at once. Earlier, users were limited to send just one contact at a time, but now that limit has been revoked. This feature was spotted on Android beta, and should roll out for everyone soon.
Spotted in Android beta was also emoji search that brings the ability to search for emojis based on keywords. This nifty feature was first possible through third-party apps, but now the ability is coming to the in-app keyboard as well. There were also new font shortcuts spotted in beta for bold, italics, and strike through. This would remove the need to add text inside asterisks while typing for making it bold, or type phrase between underscores to italicise.
Lastly but importantly, WhatsApp was recently reported to be testing a new feature on the Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile platform that could make life less painful when changing your contact number. In trying to ease the transition, it is testing a feature that will notify your friends and family about your number change for you. The Live Location sharing feature was also spotted on Android beta, hinting that it will make its way to WhatsApp soon. This will presumably turn location sharing on as a broadcast - enabling contacts to see each other on a map.