WhatsApp is upgrading the Voice Chat feature on mobile so users can now host large group calls with up to 128 participants.
The platform has yet to make a formal announcement of the changes through its usual avenues although details can be found on its Help Center support website. On the surface, the tool’s functionality is pretty straightforward. You can start a group voice chat by going to a group chat, tapping the audio read-out icon in the upper right-hand corner, and selecting Start Voice Chat. The company states this is “only available on your primary device” and calls will automatically end the moment everyone leaves. Additionally, they instantly end after an hour if no one “joins the first or last person in the chat”.
There is more to this update than what’s on the support page as other news reports reveal a much more robust feature. According to TechCrunch, Voice Chat for Larger Groups is “designed to be less disruptive” than a regular group call. Participants will not be rung when a call starts. Instead, they will “receive a push notification” with an in-chat bubble you have to tap in order to join.
At the top of the screen is a series of controls where you can mute, unmute, or message other people in the group without having to leave. Of course, you can hang up any time you want using the same controls. Like with all forms of messaging on WhatsApp, the large voice chats will be end-to-end encrypted.
The Verge states the patch will be rolling out to the Android and iOS apps over the coming weeks, however, it’ll first be made available to bigger groups hosting 33 to 128 participants. It’s unknown why smaller chats will have to wait to receive the same feature. But as The Verge points out, it could be because the Group Voice Call tool already exists. Meta is seemingly prioritizing the larger chats first before moving on to all users.
No word if WhatsApp has plans to expand this to their desktop app; although we did ask. This story will be updated at a later time.
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