WhatsApp users on iOS and Android devices are being advised to update to the latest version of the messaging app to take advantage of a new feature.
The Facebook-owned unit officially rolled out eight-person video calls for iOS and Android users globally this week.
The move now makes WhatsApp a viable alternative to the usual video chat apps such as Zoom, Meet and Skype, and is an important development for those looking for group calling in order to stay in touch with friends and family during the global Coronavirus pandemic.
WhatsApp announced the raising of the WhatsApp call participant limit in a blog post on the matter on Tuesday.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many of us are isolated from friends and family,” said WhatsApp. “As a result, we see that people all over the world are turning to voice and video calling on WhatsApp more than ever before.”
“Group calling has been particularly useful and our users have asked to connect with more people at once,” the unit wrote. “Starting today, we’re doubling the number of participants you can have on a WhatsApp video or voice call from 4 to 8 people at a time.”
WhatsApp said that over the last month, people on average are spending over 15 billion minutes talking each day on WhatsApp calls, well above a typical day before the pandemic.
“And just like written messages, all those calls are protected with end-to-end encryption,” said WhatsApp. “We have built group calling in a way that makes it available for as many users as possible, including people on lower-end devices and slow network conditions.”
WhatsApp is also available on Facebook’s Portal devices, which “many users have told us has been a great way to share their living room with family during quarantine.”
In order to access the eight person group video callings, iOS and Android users will need to update to the latest version of WhatsApp.
To start a group video call chat, users should select ‘Calls’ from the bottom menu bar and click the call icon in the upper right corner of WhatsApp.
Tap ‘New Group Call’ above your contact list. Search or scroll through your contacts to add up to seven more call participants.
It is likely that the WhatsApp development will be a popular option for friends and families to stay in touch, whilst competitors such as Skype, Google Hangouts and Zoom will remain the preferred option for larger virtual gatherings or work-related meetings.
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