Messaging service WhatsApp is testing a function to be able to use the app on multiple devices at the same time. The mandatory active connection with a smartphone is being overhauled.
To this day, the WhatsApp app is linked to a phone number anyway. Yes, there are desktop and web versions of WhatsApp, but no message comes through without a connection to a smartphone. Is your cell phone battery flat? Then you can no longer receive or send WhatsApp messages. Using WhatsApp on multiple devices simultaneously – tablet and smartphone, for example – is now also not possible.
That must have been the most heard complaint about WhatsApp for years. For years, WhatsApp seemed to ignore that criticism completely, but that is now changing. The fact that the competition does allow multiple devices will undoubtedly have contributed to this. Signal, for example, does require an initial link with a mobile phone number to set up the account, but afterwards, the app can be used on multiple devices.
WhatsApp owner Facebook announces in a blog post that this is now about to change. The underlying architecture of the app will be redesigned, and a limited beta test will start that allows you to use WhatsApp on your smartphone and up to four other devices – even when your phone’s battery is empty. This is possible because each device then connects to WhatsApp independently and no longer passes through the phone’s data connection. The developers emphasize in the blog post that “the same level of privacy and security is preserved through end-to-end encryption.” Data – such as contact names, chat archives, starred messages and more – would also sync neatly between the devices.
According to Whatsapp, this adjustment has been worked on for a long time, but the exercise is much less obvious than it seems possible. To this day, the smartphone is the identity key. In a multi-device environment, each device has its own identity key. Completing that security and privacy puzzle was far from easy, according to the engineers. If you want to add additional devices to WhatsApp, you will still have to scan a QR code with the phone. From now on, this will also include mandatory biometric verification, such as a fingerprint.
Initially, WhatsApp will test the new multi-device experience with users from the already existing beta program. Then, over time, the renewed WhatsApp will slowly but surely be rolled out to other groups of users. Facebook does not put timing on that.