Better late then never. Popular mobile-only instant messaging app, WhatsApp, has released a beta build of its Android version, that brings a new refreshed interface conforming to the Holo design language, that Google introduced with Android 3.0. This comes as good news for users hooked on to the service, especially the ones who were unhappy with the user interface of the existing app.
The beta is available for download (.apk file) via WhatsApp's website, and the version available in the Play Store has not been updated, at the moment (this also the reason why we're referring to the release as a Beta).
The WhatsApp service costs $0.99 per year, after one year of trial, but those who've paid for the service once will not be charged again for using the beta version.
The new version offers better looking fonts, bigger image previews in chat windows, no ugly buttons for playing videos and audio clips or viewing images, and a more subtle colour scheme inline with the Holo design guidelines. The background wallpaper can also now be changed directly from the chat window without the need to dig into settings. Also, the emoticons drawer has been shifted below, just next to the reply prompt instead of the top right corner of the chat window.
WhatsApp is extremely popular among smartphone users and offers versions for Windows Phone, iOS, Symbian, BlackBerry and Nokia S40 mobile platforms. However, recently the app courted controversy when the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) and the Dutch Data Protection Authority, in a joint report released last month, said that the app violated privacy laws because users had to provide access to all phone numbers in their address book, including both users and non-users of the app. The Dutch agency said it would continue to monitor WhatsApp and could impose penalties if violations continued.
Last year, there were reports that Facebook was looking to acquire WhatsApp but both the companies dismissed such suggestions.