It's all about Instant Messaging!
Instant messaging seems to have become even more popular than text messaging. You would be hard pressed not to have heard of WHATSAPP, even if you don’t use it.
So, what is WHATSAPP?
It’s basically a cross platform free instant messaging service (app) for smartphones that has grown massively in popularity since 2014. Usable on both iPhones and Android smartphones.
Primarily for sending direct instant messages, video calls, picture and video messaging. There are many other hidden features which I’ll cover in a moment. WhatsApp is an effective and better alternative to text messages which can cost money unless they’re wrapped up in mobile phone contract bundles (which aren’t free).
The instant messages within WhatsApp are encrypted for protection against hackers and eavesdroppers and more recently they announced a move into a Business Platform which means companies can now use the app for customer service and internal communications.
First developed in California in 2009, WhatsApp inc was bought out by Facebook in 2014 for a tidy $19.3 Billon (£14.7 Billion).
Today, WhatsApp has 1 Billion users worldwide, sending 55 Billon messages, 4.5 Billion photos and 1 Billion videos every day. I guess that’s a lot of d**k pics!
Mark Zuckerberg (of Facebook founder fame) made an interesting point in a speech following Facebooks acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014. In an article for TechCrunch he said there should be a group of free of charge ‘gateway internet services’ such as social media, weather, search engines and messaging services. Users who are already paying for data services and smartphone contracts aren’t going to want to pay for additional stuff. Too right!
Anyway, you’ll be shocked to find out there’s more to WhatsApp than just instant messaging. Or if you’re not shocked, at least mildly intrigued.
Below is a list of some of WhatsApp’s other hidden and useful features:
Free voice calls over Wi-Fi: Useful if you’re abroad and have a Wi-Fi connection to avoid expensive roaming charges. It’s cost effective even if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi if your phone contract provides unlimited data.
How? Tap the phone icon in the contacts profile or go to Calls.
Video calls: Similar to the likes of Skype, this feature allows you to make real-time video calls.
How? Tap the video camera icon within the contacts profile.
Voice messaging: Voicemails are also dying breed in the digital age. WhatsApp lets you leave an audio message without having to wait for the contact’s phone to ring.
How? Press and hold the microphone icon in the chat window. Cancel by swiping left.
Share content that will self-destruct in 24 hours: If you want to destroy the evidence or cover your tracks, you can send messages that delete themselves once they’ve been read. Very useful if you’re an international spy.
How? Select the Status tab in the main window and select My status. Select the relevant photo or video and add captions or text. The envelope icon shares with everyone in your contacts list. Long pressing and tapping the trash icon will delete it before the 24-hour deadline is up.
Send files to your friends: Send any type of file as an alternative to sending attachments in emails.
How? Tap the paperclip icon and find the document or file you want to send.
Share your location with contacts: This feature allows you to share where you are on a map with friends. Useful if you’re lost or friends can’t find you in the pub.
How? Tap the paperclip icon and select Location. It will ask you to Approve permissions then Send your current location. The recipient opens Google Maps and can get directions to find you.
Share multiple contacts: By selecting the paperclip icon within the chat, you can select a contact or multiple contacts.
How? Tap the paperclip icon in the chat thread then select one or more contacts to send to. Tap the right arrow which lets you select which details you want to send.
Reference old messages in a chat thread: Within a group chat or a thread with a single contact, if you happen to have fallen behind in the conversation then you can bring back a certain message in the thread then add your witty comment.
How? Long press the original message then tap the left arrow in the toolbar. The original message appears in a pop-up window and you can compose your message underneath it and send both.
Edit and share photos with your contacts: Without having to install photo editing software, you edit photos or screenshots before sending them.
How? Tap the paperclip icon and select Gallery. Select the photo then the crop icon and edit from there. You can also add filters, text and stickers.
Back up chat threads and attachments: Using online storage you can back up a thread of messages or files you received or sent.
How? You need an online storage account associated to your phone such as Google Drive, OneDrive or iDrive to do this. In the WhatsApp main menu go to Settings, Chats and Calls and then Back up.
Amend Privacy options: Within WhatsApp’s account settings you can change who is able to see your personal information. Including your status, last time online and profile picture. You can also prevent other people from seeing if you’ve read their messages.
How? Go to Settings then Account and Privacy then untick ‘Read receipts’. Enabling this feature means you won’t be able to see when other people have read your messages also.
Add Security to WhatsApp: This feature lets you add another layer of security to your account by requesting a six-digit PIN upon login.
How? Go to Settings, Account and Two-step verification. Tap Enable and enter a PIN. By tapping Next, you can add an email address to which it will send you a link if you forget your PIN.
Silence those noisy group chat notifications: If you’re part of a group chat that constantly notifies you of each message, there is a way of muting them. This can be done on groups or individual contacts for set periods.
How? Within the chat thread, tap the three-dot button on the right and Mute notifications. You can of course also unmute them.
Personalise notifications for Group chats: Instead of muting them, you can add your favourite notification tunes to groups, so you know which set of friends or enemies are having a conversation.
How? In the group chat thread go to Group info and Custom notifications. Choose the tone or alert or vibration etc.
Change the wallpaper in your messages: Stand out from the crowd and be different.
How? Go to the Menu in the chat thread and select Wallpaper Library. Or choose a photo from your Gallery.
Change the font size: This can be done on both Android phones and iPhones.
How: For Android, open the WhatsApp main menu and go to Chats and Font. For iPhone, go into the phone’s settings and select Display and Brightness. Then go to Text Size, Settings, General and Accessibility to change the font.
Block someone you no longer want to chat with: This feature let’s you block annoying or abusive contacts. Same applies to Spam messages.
How? In the chat thread’s menu button, select More and Block. This also blocks phone and video calls from that contact.
Archive old chat threads: Similar to an email inbox, WhatsApp can also become cluttered up with loads of message threads. You can archive them out of the way without deleting them.
How? Long press the chat thread and tap the down arrow symbol. The archived chat will reappear in the main view when you receive the next message from the same group or contact. You retrieve them by just swiping to ‘Archived chats’.
Using WhatsApp on your smartphone for free instead of paying for text messages is a no brainer.
It’s user friendly and cross platform (usable on iPhones or Android phones). The mobile operators will have to think hard about how they sell mobile phone packages in the future. The days of 10p per text are long gone and we’d rather have a free go-to service like this any day. With 1 Billion users to date, this free app is on the increase.
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Let me know what you think about WhatsApp. Share your views and experiences by posting a comment or simply email me.