WhatsApp is to add a host of new features – including finally giving users the option to use their account on up to four devices.
It is just one of a range of new features coming to the app, which also includes messages that can only be seen once and will disappear after time.
The multi-device support has been long-rumoured and addresses a major failing with WhatsApp when compared to its competitors.
At the moment, WhatsApp is tied to one specific phone and number, meaning that it can only be used properly on that device. While it does offer a “web” version of the app, that in effect piggybacks on the primary version.
But now users will be able to access their accounts from as many as four devices. The announcement came as part of a conversation between Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, WhatsApp head Will Cathcart and WABetaInfo, a website that has repeatedly revealed upcoming features before they are released.
Mr Zuckerberg said that even when using multiple devices, its end-to-end encryption will still be intact. While conversations will be shared between different devices, neither Facebook or anyone else who is not part of them will be able to see the contents, he said.
“It’ll still be end-to-end encrypted,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote in the interview, which was conducted through a WhatsApp conversation.. “It’s been a big technical challenge to get all your messages and content to sync properly across devices even when your phone battery dies, but we’ve solved this and we’re looking forward to getting it out soon!”
The new feature will be going into a public beta version “in the next month or two”, Mr Cathcart said.
The lack of such a feature puts WhatsApp notably behind many other chat apps, such as Telegram and Facebook’s own Messenger, which allow users to see and send messages on as many devices as they like, and have them synced between those various phones or computers.
It did not confirm another long-standing rumour that it is working on an iPad app, but such a new feature could presumably make that much more useful.
As well as the multiple device options, the “view once” and “disappearing mode” features will let people control how long their messages stick around. Users will be able to send content that disappears once it is viewed, like on Snapchat, or after a specific set of time.