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WhatsApp could finally let you rein in storage-eating chat backups

A photo of a WhatsApp chat on an iPhone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

WhatsApp updates often come thick and fast. That's no surprise, as it's the world’s most popular chat app, with an estimated 2 billion users flinging messages around the globe every single month. 

So the Facebook-owned service is constantly being enhanced and upgraded, implementing new features and occasionally making changes to the privacy terms and functionality.

If you’re one of the WhatsApp faithful, then it’s worth keeping tabs on the latest updates and changes made to the app, as well as potential additions and tweaks on the horizon.

Latest WhatsApp updates news (updated October 14)

WhatsApp could soon let you manage unruly chat backups 

One annoying aspect of WhatsApp is that chat backups can quickly balloon in size if not looked after, especially if you're in chat where people send a lot of images and videos. These backups can become gigabytes in size, making swapping phones and restoring chats an arduous process.

However, that could soon change as the folks at WABetaInfo have done a deep dive into the latest WhatsApp beta and found a function that called "Manage backup size" to provide users with more control over what gets backed up, as well as a real-time estimate on the size of a potential back up before it's executed. 

This seems like a rather useful feature and one we'd expect Facebook to bring to WhatsApp, rather than just a feature it's experimenting with. 

a screenshot of Manage backup size feature in the WhatsApp beta

(Image credit: WEBetaInfo)

October 8: WhatsApp Beta for iOS is now rolling out end-to-end encrypted backups

Your WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted, which means nobody can access those messages except you and the person (or people) you sent it to. However your iCloud backups are not so secure. They are encrypted, but since they lack end-to-end encryption it means Apple can decrypt them if they wanted to.

But WABetaInfo has discovered end-to-end encrypted backups on the iOS version of WhatsApp. This means decryption keys belong to the user, and ensures your chats are kept safe should anyone gain access to your iCloud account. 

There's no word when it'll come out of beta, but it means you shouldn't have long to wait to add that extra bit of security to your conversations.

WhatsApp updates

(Image credit: Allie Zru)

September 15: WhatsApp is going to let you transcribe voice notes, for those times you can't listen in

Voice notes are useful, but only if you can actually listen to them. If you can't they're basically useless, and that may be why WhatsApp is going to give you the option of transcribing them.

First spotted on iOS by WABetaInfo, and then later confirmed by WhatsApp, the feature will send audio off to be transcribed and sent back in readable format. However rather than sending it to parent company Facebook, which has a reputation for not caring about user privacy, iOS data will be sent to Apple. Presumably this feature would send Android voice data to Google instead, though that's not been confirmed.

Unfortunately WhatsApp has said this feature is still in the “very early stages of designing and prototyping." So it's not going to be arriving anytime soon.

August 14: WhatsApp is about to get two of the most requested features on Android

There's a lot WhatsApp can do, but there's still plenty of missing features that users wish they had. Thankfully two of them are on the way: the option to transfer chat history between Android devices, and better multi-device support.

Multi-device support is currently available to beta users, letting you access WhatsApp on four different devices at the same time — even if your phone isn't in reach. Devices will still need to link to your phone, however, and the link will expire if you don't use your phone for two weeks.

Transferring chat history on Android is currently slated as a timed-Samsung exclusive, and is set to arrive on Samsung phones within the next few weeks. However it will also be coming to other Android phones ion the near future — we just don't know when.

August 10: New WhatsApp Android beta brings in "affectionate" emojis

The regular beta code miners at WABetaInfo have uncovered new emojis for Android beta WhatsApp users, with an emphasis on affectionate designs. Following the Unicode Consortium's Emoji 13.1 update, which introduces 217 new official universal emojis for others to incorporate or build upon, the new WhatsApp emojis have reportedly appeared on the WhatsApp Android beta. 

They include new heart emojis, seeming communicating a mended heart and a burning heart, as well as close affection between people. While another seems to be an emoji for having one's 'head in the clouds.' These emojis are very likely to come to the full Android version of WhatsApp before too long, given they're available on the iOS 14.5 version of WhatsApp already.  

Android WhatsApp emojis

(Image credit: WABetaInfo)

August 4: WhatsApp View Once photo and video messages are now available to all 

WhatsApp has started rolling out the View Once feature, which was part of the beta version (see below), allowing users to enable photos and videos to be automatically deleted once they've been viewed. 

Such messages will be marked with a new “one-time” icon, so you'll know that once you've viewed it it'll be gone once you've closed the chat. And if you don't open a View Once photo or video it'll be deleted within 14 days of it being sent. And nor can users save or forward photos or videos they've received that have been tagged as View Once. 

To use the feature you must select View One each time you send a video or photo, which should help you avoid sending photos that you want the recipient to hold on to.  Just be aware that there'll still be time for photo and video recipients to take a screenshot of the photo or use screen recording to capture the video, so do make sure you're sending View Once messages to trusted contacts. 

Not only is the View Once feature a boon for privacy-conscious people, it will also avoid filling up a photo of gallery app with images and videos users might not want to keep. 

July 28: WhatsApp could be working on an iOS to Android chat history transfer feature

The latest code digging from WABetaInfo has found an option in the WhatsApp beta that lets iPhone users swapping to Android phones move their chat history across to Android devices. 

It's reportedly done as simply as scanning a QR code served up in the iOS WhatsApp app or by navigating to the settings menu and accessing the transfer option there. 

Such an option would make it easier to move from an iPhone to one of our best Android phones. But there's no clear timeline on when the feature will come to the full release of WhatsApp on iOS. Hopefully it'll arrive sooner than later, especially as the iPhone 13 might not offer enough of an upgrade over the iPhone 12, so some people might want to move over to rumored upcoming phones like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

WhatsApp group call joining

(Image credit: Facebook)

July 20: WhatsApp now lets you join group calls that have already begun

WhatsApp has introduced a new feature that lets users to join a group call that's already started even if they ignored the call to start with.

Prior to this, in order to join a group call you had to accept the invitation when it was first sent out at the start of the call. But now you can just head over to the Calls tab and join from there.

July 12: WhatsApp disappearing messages come to the iOS beta

The current WhatsApp beta for iOS supports disappearing messages, according to some digging done by WABetaInfo in the WhatsApp version on Testflight. This apparently enables users to send photos and videos that effectively self-destruct once they have been viewed once. 

Such a feature is likely to be handy for people who are very privacy-conscious, at least when it rolls out to the full version of WhatsApp. But this will not prevent recipients of the message to screenshot it and save it for later, so this feature isn't fool proof.   

The view once feature will need to be enabled by users, and as it's rolling out to beta users, you may need to wait for it to be added into your WhatsApp beta. For people not on the beta programme, you may be out of luck as at the time of writing, it's full up. 

WhatsApp icon on iPhone

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

July 12: WhatsApp has found a way to make your photos and videos look better

Going by a new feature spotted by  WABetaInfo in the latest WhatsApp beta, a "best quality" option for sending photos of videos could be coming to the messaging service. 

As the name suggests, this is looking like a way to send high-quality photos and videos if you have the cellular connection or Wi-Fi to support it. 

July 1: WhatsApp is reportedly testing “View Once” messages

WhatsApp could be getting into Snapchat-like ephemeral messaging, according to a report from WABetaInfo, which notes the rollout of a new “View Once” feature will let users see certain incoming messages only once before they are erased forever. The service has offered self-deleting messages in the past, but not with such a limited window for viewing them.

WABetaInfo reported the View Once features is currently rolling out on the WhatsApp beta for Android for specific beta testers. Once the message is viewed, the sender will know that it has been seen. Once it is closed, the message is deleted forever.

June 27: WhatsApp is testing new voice message feature 

Another beta deep dive by WABetaInfo has found that WhatsApp is testing a tweaked version of the voice messages feature, which not only allows users to see a waveform of their voice when recording a message, but also lets them stop a recording to listen back to their message before sending it. 

The latter part isn't possible in the current full version of WhatsApp on iOS or Android, meaning it's all-too-easy to record and send a message without being able to check it beforehand. WABetaInfo posted a video of the Voice Waveform feature in action, which would signal that it's likely to make it to the full release of WhatsApp.