Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp introduces the launch of a trial aimed at allowing users to stay connected without the use of smartphones. This is the first time users would enjoy such a feature on the App. At present, when WhatsApp is linked to a user’s phone, in other to connect to WhatsApp desktop and web apps that device needs to be connected to the internet as well before receiving messages. Interestingly the new feature will let users send and receive messages “even if your phone battery is dead”. WhatsApp which is predominately known for its messaging app launched for PCs in 2015.
WhatsApp in a blog post made this known to the public. To begin with, the new feature will be rolled out as a beta test for a “small group of users”, and the team plans to improve performance and add features before enabling it for everyone. WhatsApp said. Another interesting thing the messaging app is doing is allowing users to be able to enjoy video and audio chats on WhatsApp for PC without their phone. Up to four other non-phone companion devices – like PCs and tablets – will be able to connect to WhatsApp independently of a smartphone, as part of the change.
‘Very excited to be launching a beta of our new multi-device capability for WhatsApp,’ said Will Cathcart, Head of WhatsApp. He continues with ‘Now you can use our desktop or web experiences even when your phone isn’t active and connected to the internet.’
WhatsApp reveals as each companion device connects to WhatsApp independently, users will enjoy the same level of privacy and security through end-to-end encryption –a key selling point for WhatsApp. This simply means users can go to sleep and be assured WhatsApp’s security measures will still work under the new system. Jake Moore, a security specialist at anti-virus-company Eset, said that “no matter how robust the security is, having messages on more devices could still be a concern. There will always be a malicious actor looking to create a workaround,” he warned “It is therefore vital that people are aware of all the devices that are connected to their account”
Before the new feature was announced, reports say, the feature has long been requested by WhatsApp users – of which there are a reported two billion. Users wonder if several other messaging apps already have such a feature, including rival encrypted app Signal, which requires a phone for sign-up, but not to exchange messages, why not WhatsApp. In a blog post announcing the move, Facebook engineers mentioned the change needed a “rethink” of WhatsApp’s software design. They explain the current version “uses a smartphone app as the primary device, making the phone the source of truth for all user data and the only device capable of end-to-end encrypting messages for another user [or] initiating calls”, the company said. Technically, the solution was to give every device ability to own “identity key”, and WhatsApp keeps a record of which keys belong to the same user account. That means it does not need to store messages on its own server, which could lead to privacy concerns.
It’s expected that the new WhatsApp multi-device architecture design removes hurdles regular users are familiar with like the web app known to frequently disconnect. Also by no longer requiring a smartphone to be the source of truth, while still keeping user data seamlessly and securely synchronized and private.