WhatsApp is upgrading the Voice Chat feature on mobile devices so that users can now have large group conversations with up to 128 participants.
The platform has yet to formally announce the changes through its usual channels, although details can be found on its website Help Center support website. At first glance, the functionality of the tool is quite simple. You can start a group voice chat by going to a group chat, tapping the audio readout icon in the top right corner and selecting Start Voice Chat. The company states that this is “only available on your primary device” and that calls will automatically end once everyone leaves. Additionally, they end immediately after an hour if no one “joins the first or last person in the chat.”
There’s more to this update than what’s listed on the support page, as other news reports reveal a much more robust feature. According to TechCrunchVoice chat for larger groups is “designed to be less disruptive” than a regular group conversation. Participants are not called when a conversation starts. Instead, they’ll receive “a push notification” with an in-chat bubble that you tap to join.
At the top of the screen you’ll find a series of controls that allow you to unmute, mute, or message other people in the group without having to leave the group. Of course, you can hang up at any time using the same controls. As with all forms of messaging on WhatsApp, the major voice chats will be end-to-end encrypted.
The edge states that the patch will be rolled out to the Android and iOS apps in the coming weeks, but will first be made available to larger groups with 33 to 128 participants. It is unknown why smaller chats will have to wait to receive the same feature. But as The Verge points out, this could be because the Group Voice Call tool already exists. Meta seems to prioritize the larger chats first before moving on to all users.
No word if WhatsApp has plans to expand this to their desktop app; even though we asked. This story will be updated at a later date.
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