Not to be outdone by rival Viber which rolled out animated stickers, location sharing, a brand new keypad and other enhancements in yesterday’s refresh, Facebook-owned WhatsApp today pushed a substantial update to its App Store application.
WhatsApp for iPhone now features richer notifications settings with per-chat rules and mute options, a new swipe gesture to mark chats as read or unread, the ability to directly share contacts from the Contacts app and locations from Apple Maps, backups for your videos and much more.
Other new features in this update include an enhanced interface when cropping photos and videos before adding them to a chat, friendlier features for hearing-impaired users with improved VoiceOver support and infinite scrolling with earlier messages loading automatically as you scroll chats.
Message swiping and muting
WhatsApp now features the familiar swiping gesture on the chat screen that you can use to reveal hidden options, like in Apple’s Mail and a number of other third-party apps.
For example, swiping in the chat list from left to right lets you mark a message as read. If a message has already been read, you will see the option to mark it as unread.
Swiping in the chat list from right to left lets you archive a message.
If you tap More, a menu pops up offering options to mute the conversation, bring up contact information, share the contents of your chat in an email message, clear the chat without deleting it from your history or delete the chat forever.
For those wondering, you can mute a chat for 8 hours, 1 week or 1 year.
Location sharing from Apple Maps
WhatsApp is now listed as an option in the Share sheet within Apple Maps.
This lets you quickly send your current location, or any point of interest for that matter, directly to WhatsApp without leaving Apple Maps. Just fire up Apple Maps on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, find a location (or drop a pin on the map) and tap the share icon in the upper right corner.
Now choose WhatsApp in the top row of icons, choose one or more WhatsApp contacts to share the location with and tap Send, as shown above. Which brings me to another new feature in WhatsApp 2.12.5: a larger map thumbnail in the chat window.
Here’s what it looks like.
As you can see, the Fifth Avenue location I just sent to myself from Apple Maps appears in the chat window as a larger map thumbnail. If I tap the embedded thumbnail, WhatsApp takes me to a full-screen map view like before.
Location sharing from Contacts app
In addition to native sharing to WhatsApp from Apple Maps, the same feature is now available in Apple’s stock Contacts app. As you may have suspected, this lets you quickly share specific contact data with a friend on WhatsApp right within the context of the Contacts app.
First, open Contacts on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad and tap on a contact. Scroll down in the contact view screen until you see the Share Contact option. Tap it, choose WhatsApp in the top row of icons, select your recipient and you’ll be taken to a new screen to cherry-pick which contact information you’d like to share.
In the example above, I’m sharing Apple, Inc’s work address and its homepage with myself. Depending on specific contact information shared, WhatsApp will provide additional options in the chat window. In the example above, I can tap on the received Apple Inc. contact card to reveal the homepage and work address I shared with myself.
But if send more contact information from Contacts to WhatsApp like phone number, the embedded contact card in WhatsApp’s chat window will provide buttons to immediately message the contact, save the card as a new contact on my iPhone or add information to one of the existing contacts on my device.
Lower data consumption
Viber’s most recent update brought out a more efficient data compression and WhatsApp follows suit. Just tap on the Settings icon alongside the bottom of the WhatsApp interface to bring up in-app settings. Now tap on Chats and Calls and then flip the Low Data Usage switch to ON.
WhatsApp says enabling the feature “further lowers the amount of data used during a WhatsApp call,” but stops short of saying how many kilobytes are saved during a call with this enabled. Viber, for instance, said its new data compression allows the app to burn just 84 kilobytes per minute to make an audio call on a 2G connection.
WhatsApp’s option that lowers data usage will be of particular importance to users in emerging markets and developing countries who either purchase data on the go in 100-megabyte buckets or their monthly cellular data allowance is below one gigabyte.
I like WhatsApp’s built-in backup system that periodically saves my chats and media in the cloud. It gives me a piece of mind knowing that I can restore my chat history on another device in just a few seconds.
Now in WhatsApp 2.12.5, you can at last tell the app to back up videos, too.
To enable video backups, visit the Chats and Calls section in WhatsApp settings, tap on Chat Backup and flip the Include Videos switch to the ON position.
WhatsApp stores your backups in iCloud so it may be a good idea to perform a backup while on Wi-Fi or disable cellular data for iCloud if you really must back up a WhatsApp archive on a cellular connection.
WhatsApp 2.12.5 changelog
The following new features and enhancements are listed in the changelog:
- Per chat custom notification settings and mute
- You can now include videos in your chat backups in Settings > Chats and Calls > Chat Backup
- Mark chats as unread or read with a swipe to the right
- Better support for VoiceOver
- Directly share contacts from the Contacts app and locations from Apple Maps to WhatsApp
- Lower the data usage used during WhatsApp calls in Settings > Chats and Calls
- Earlier messages now load automatically as you scroll chats
- Improved design for cropping photos and videos
- Location messages now use a large map thumbnail
WhatsApp is the leading mobile messaging platform with more than 800 million active monthly users versus Viber’s installed base of 500 million active users.
The 46-megabyte application requires an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad with iOS 6.0 or later. WhatsApp is optimized for native display resolution on the iPhone 5/5c/5c, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but continues to lack an iPad-optimized interface and a WatchKit component for your wrist.
WhatsApp is available at no charge in the App Store.