A feature that users have been asking for a very long time will be making its way to Facebook-owned private messaging service WhatsApp. According to its head executive Will Cathcart and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg via WABetaInfo, the platform will soon introduce users the ability to share a single account on multiple smart devices – a feature that has been rumoured and leaked numerous of times in the past.
This would enable users to link up to four devices at a time and seamlessly continue their conversations on a different smartphone or even tablet, he explained. Most importantly, Cathcart assured that chats shared across all linked devices will retain their end-to-end encryption in order to protect the user’s privacy.
At this time, WhatsApp’s existing multi-device feature only supports phone-to-computer chat synchronisation, where users are required to link their accounts to either the web version of the platform or its desktop app. Technically, all chats are handled on the user’s smartphone, which are then reflected on desktop in real-time. The link between the two devices will continue as long as they are connected to the internet.
As to how this new multi-device feature actually works, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told WABetaInfo in the same report that the WhatsApp team has figured out a way to allow chats on multiple devices to be synchronised – even if a user’s main device is inactive or not connected to the internet. Achieving this was a “big technical challenge”, he noted.
Ever since launch, WhatsApp stores all of an account’s chat history and media files on-device. Switching through different smartphones will require users to first back up their data on either Google Cloud or iCloud before the shift, which would then be restored upon request on the new device.
However, this convenience does not apply to users who are shifting from Android to iOS and vice versa, due to the different backup locations that are exclusive to each mobile operating system. This is unlike its closest competitor Telegram which stores all user data on its own cloud storage system. This alone is the main reason why users on the platform are able to switch or use multiple devices with ease, regardless whether they are on Android or iOS. Hopefully, WhatsApp will somehow remedy this limitation in one way or another via the upcoming feature.
In terms of availability, it looks like we may have to wait a while longer before the new update is rolled out. Cathcart also revealed that the beta for the multi-device feature will begin in “in the next month or two”, so those interested may opt to download the corresponding WhatsApp beta client in order to try it for themselves. That being said, we’ll keep you posted once the platform confirms the beta’s expected release date.