The new WhatsApp feature for multiple devices needs to be copied from Apple’s iMessage

New WhatsApp features for multiple devices are made public.

James Martin / CNET

New WhatsApp feature for multiple devices, previously in beta and now it will be available to everyone for the next few months, making it much easier to send text messages to friends and family from virtually any device with multiple settings of how WhatsApp web apps and desktops work. The result retains much of the encryption and security that WhatsApp is known for, and also creates an cross-platform experience for sending text messages that reminds me of using iMessage on Mac and iPhone – but without having to linger only on Apple devices.

WhatsApp desktop software is not new to be understood. However, in the past, their operation required a constant connection to your phone. If your phone was turned off or temporarily lost, you essentially couldn’t access your texts at all. Other Meta-owned services, such as Messenger, do not have this restriction, but at the expense of your privacy there is no end-to-end encryption.

WhatsApp now allows you to select as many as four devices other than your phone that can send and receive WhatsApp messages. You configure these devices by scanning the QR code generated on a website or WhatsApp desktop application using WhatsApp on your phone, and then they are included in the “Connected Devices” list in your account. From now on, this browser or desktop program will have access to your WhatsApp texts regardless of whether your phone is nearby. In addition to this flexibility, I’ve also found that WhatsApp will just load much faster on all the devices I’ve tested, including my working Mac, Chromebook and iPad.

I would not yet call the system for multiple WhatsApp devices perfect, and other messaging programs, such as Signal and Telegram, offer similar solutions, so let’s consider a few more details for customizing WhatsApp for multiple devices.

whatsapp-multidevice.png

When your WhatsApp account gets a new feature of related devices, you will receive a message similar to this.

WhatsApp

Works on almost any device, but not almost every feature

The best part of launching WhatsApp on multiple devices is speed. As I mentioned before, I can switch between different devices in multiple operating systems and easily keep up with group chats or quick texts. However, some features, such as video and voice calls, only work in Windows, MacOS and WhatsApp mobile applications. The web version I use on my Chromebook and iPad does not have access to these calling features.

You can access related devices in WhatsApp settings.

Screenshot by Mike Sorrentino / CNET

WhatsApp also shows other passes that related devices do not yet support, which include clearing or deleting chats from the connected device if you use WhatsApp on iPhone and view the location live.

And even though the connected device won’t need to connect to your phone, the new WhatsApp feature still requires the phone to get started. During setup, your phone will send a copy of your latest message history to your device.

Connected devices also depend on your phone using WhatsApp to stay logged in. If you do not log in to WhatsApp for 14 days from your phone – or because you lost your phone, or perhaps you use WhatsApp only occasionally for certain contacts – all connected devices will be logged out.

I also found that you can inadvertently quickly replenish the limit of their connected devices. If you use the WhatsApp desktop application and WhatsApp for the web on one computer, WhatsApp will see it as two devices. If you clear the cache in your web browser and then re-enter WhatsApp in that web browser, it will also appear as a new connected device. Removing related devices from the settings is easy enough, but it is worth noting that device management can occur faster than you expected.

Also now smart watches cannot be a connected device, just as WhatsApp does not offer the Apple Watch app. I believe that using WhatsApp with Apple Watch is quite simple when responding to notifications, but you cannot start new messages using this method. I know of third-party Apple Watch apps in the App Store that unofficially integrate with WhatsApp, but I would be wary of providing extra access to that.

And now, please, can any text messaging service copy this?

As I mentioned earlier, the multi-device version of WhatsApp isn’t particularly new, but there’s plenty of room for other text-messaging apps to improve their services in this cross-platform direction. Signal, whose encryption protocol uses WhatsApp, offers text messaging on multiple devices via mobile apps, desktops and iPads, but does not currently support the web version for platforms where it does not create apps. Signal also does not offer cloud backup of your texts by storing your messages on the devices themselves.

The Android Messages app offers encryption of texts sent via RCS, and it has a web version, but this web version depends on direct synchronization with the phone, just as the previous version of WhatsApp works.

Apple’s iMessage runs seamlessly on MacBook, iPad, Apple Watch and iPhone – including encrypted text and partial encryption for backup. Flexibility to move between these devices has always been a high point of iMessage service. However, more and more people are using an iPhone, but may own a Windows PC that cannot access iMessage. Or a Chromebook. Or an Android tablet. I won’t go into the iMessage brick gardens, but when other competitors offer services that meet customers on different platforms while retaining encryption, it becomes more noticeable when one doesn’t.

Encryption in text messaging programs is especially relevant after the European Union recently approved – but has not yet adopted – Digital Markets Actwhich is partly designed to require leaders in the messaging space, such as Apple and Meta, to allow compatibility. The rules are very new and aims to provide a more level playing field for new services. While he has good intentions, he also creates a situation where technology companies may need to decide how to ensure such compatibility while maintaining the privacy of their customers.


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