WhatsApp has announced an entirely new chat feature that could change the way you communicate with friends and family.
Known as Voice Chat, this all-new feature is designed to be less disruptive (and formal) than group calls by encouraging users to drop in whenever it’s convenient. If that sounds familiar, it’s likely because Voice Chat has a lot in common with rival apps Discord and Slack, which seamlessly blend real-time calls and texts.
During a Voice Chat, you’ll be able to talk in real-time with up to 128 people in an existing WhatsApp group. Not only that, but people will be able to continue sending text messages, photos, videos, and PDFs in the group during the Voice Chat …which sounds like it could get a little chaotic.
Unlike a standard WhatsApp call, which rings the phone of every contact added to the call, Voice Chat sends a notification to let people know that a call has started.
To join the call, simply tap on the text bubble labelled Voice Chat in the relevant group – and you’re off!
Unlike standard phone calls, Voice Chats start quietly with a single notification – no ringing – and let people join the conversation at a more leisurely pace (and continue to use the app)
META PRESS OFFICE
This is a key difference from standard calls, which overtake every corner of your screen with a picture of the person(s) calling and quick controls to mute your microphone, enable video, and hang up.
Anyone who doesn’t decide to jump into an available Voice Chat in a WhatsApp group will be able to see the profile picture of everyone currently on the call. As mentioned above, even if you can’t join the call, you’ll be able to send messages to the WhatsApp group to communicate with those in the Voice Chat.
Meta, the parent company built by Mark Zuckerberg that owns WhatsApp and Facebook, says that any audio sent during a Voice Chat will be end-to-end encrypted – preventing third-parties from intercepting the call.
Group chats with fewer than 32 members will be unable to access the feature for now, as WhatsApp prioritises larger groups. This is likely because Meta believes the existing call functionality will be the best option for those in smaller group chats.
WhatsApp has published a number of tutorials on the new feature, which will be slowly rolling out to iOS and Android devices in the coming weeks.
WhatsApp tends to stagger the launch of new features due to the mind-boggling number of users worldwide (now standing over 2 billion) to ensure stability with its servers, so don’t panic if you can’t immediately access Voice Chats on your handset.
To guarantee you always get the latest features from WhatsApp, check you’re running the latest version of the chat app by heading to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
Laura Adams is a tech enthusiast residing in the UK. Her articles cover the latest technological innovations, from AI to consumer gadgets, providing readers with a glimpse into the future of technology.