WhatsApp has launched group video and voice calls for iPhone and Android. The feature was announced at the F8 conference, back in May, and is rolling out around the globe for all users.Both video and voice calls work for up to 4 participants, regardless of network, device or platform.
WhatsApp shared that their users spend 2 billion minutes per day on calls. This is not only because of the usage of WhatsApp as a popular messaging platform, it is also attributed to the brilliant call quality that they provide. In my experience, it is second to only FaceTime’s call quality. Meanwhile, Messenger, yet another one of Facebook’s apps which provides video and voice calling, lags severely in terms of quality of service. In terms of security, group calls are end-to-end encrypted, similar to FaceTime’s security implementation.
Use Group Video or Voice calls in WhatsApp
As with all things WhatsApp, the implementation for group calling is very simple on both iPhone and Android. Here is how you can do so:
- Start a video or voice call with a contact. You will see a new button on the top right to add participants.
- Tap the button and you will see a list of all your WhatsApp contacts. select the ones that you want to add to the call. Remember, you can only have a maximum of 4 participants in a call, including yourself, regardless of whether it is a video call or not. When in the group call, you can tap the information button, as indicated in the screenshot below, to see details of the participants in the call.
In my short usage so far, group calls work wonderfully, even in places where cellular connectivity is unreliable. Don’t expect FaceTime level video quality if your cellular connection is weak. Also, make sure that you disable ‘Low Data Usage’ in Settings > Data and Storage Usage, for improved audio and video quality.
An odd omission in this new feature update is that when you are in a group chat of 4 people, the app does not show any button to start a call right away with all the participants. Hopefully, it will be added in a later update.
With the addition of group calling in WhatsApp, Facebook now has group calling available in all their popular properties: Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. It will be interesting to see if Facebook links them all up with each other down the road. It will likely open a few privacy issues as Instagram and Facebook do not need your phone numbers to work but WhatsApp does. From what I understand, Messenger calls are not end-to-end encrypted either so this would require some work from Facebook.