WhatsApp is on the up and up: The popular mobile-messaging app has launched a new desktop version, available as a Google Chrome applet. WhatsApp users on Android, Windows Phone or Blackberry will be able to send and receive messages via their computers as well as their smartphones.
If you have the iOS version of WhatsApp, however, you won't be able to use the desktop version, "due to Apple platform limitations," WhatsApp explained on the company blog yesterday (Jan. 21).
To use WhatsApp on a computer, open the Google Chrome browser and visit https://web.whatsapp.com/. The page will display a QR code like this one:
Open up the WhatsApp app on your Android, Windows Phone or Blackberry device, open the app's menu and locate "WhatsApp Web." From there, you can scan the QR code, which will start up the desktop applet.
Conversations appear seamlessly, letting users send and receive messages across both mobile and desktop. The only difference between the two is that WhatsApp users can't start new group messages from the desktop. (Desktop users can continue to participate in group conversations started on the mobile platform.)
The desktop version depends on a persistent Internet-based connection with the user's mobile device, however. If your mobile device loses battery power or loses its Internet connection, the desktop version will shut down as well.
This is why the WhatsApp desktop app doesn't work with iOS devices: the persistent connection required to create the desktop app isn't possible on iOS, WhatsApp says.
This desktop app pits WhatsApp against Facebook, Google Hangouts and Wickr, which also sync messages across mobile and desktop platforms. WhatsApp and Wickr also both feature end-to-end encryption, a security feature in which messages are encrypted and decrypted only on users' phones, with the result that not even the service providers can read them.
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Jill Scharr is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she regularly covers security, 3D printing and video games. You can follow Jill on Twitter @JillScharr and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.