WhatsApp is expanding Chat Lock so it syncs with other versions simultaneously

WhatsApp is working on expanding its Chat Lock feature allowing it to synchronize across all linked devices. So if you lock a conversation on the mobile app, it’ll remain locked on WhatsApp for web and Windows. It doesn’t work that way currently as the other platforms are treated as separate entities.

This future update was discovered by WABetaInfo after diving into the latest Android beta. They discovered a window with a line of texting stating WhatsApp took the opportunity to also close up the chat room on a linked device. And to open it up again, you’ll need to “use your secret code”. This “secret code” they’re referring to is a recently released security feature that was added to the platform this past November. The publication goes on to say all locked chats will be collected into a list and to access that list, you’ll need to enter your code.

Added convenience and security

Chat Lock’s expansion accomplishes two things that we’re huge fans of. One: it makes WhatsApp more convenient to use since you don’t have to relock the same conversation on Windows. It simplifies the process. And two: it offers the promise of consistent protection across your devices. This upgrade, as WABetaInfo points out, will unify privacy management across the platform’s different forms.

The feature is still under development. It doesn't work in any capacity. Although judging by the posted image, the enhanced Chat Lock may be rolling out to beta testers soon. No word on whether the same tool will be released to WhatsApp on iOS. WABetaInfo doesn’t say whether or not it will, however, it could just be a matter of time until we see it crop up on iPhones.

Instant block

Alongside the leak, Meta made a small update to WhatsApp giving users a way to block others right from the lock screen or chat list without ever having to open the text. Notifications will now have a Block option on them next to Reply. We don’t blame you if you have no idea about this. The company didn’t announce anything on its social media platforms or main avenues. Meta instead made the reveal via text coming from the official WhatsApp channel. So unless you're subscribed to the channel, you wouldn't know anything.

This patch is currently rolling out to the Android app. It’s unknown if iOS users will receive the same tool. Meta hasn’t said anything nor could we find anybody talking about getting the feature on their iPhone. So we reached out to Meta asking for information on if there are plans to expand the lock screen block tool to iOS. This story will be updated at a later time.

Until then, check out TechRadar's best Android antivirus apps for 2024.

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Windows 10 gets a fresh lock screen weather widget and bug fixes in new update

Microsoft has dropped a new preview update (KB5034203), bringing an updated lock screen weather widget to Windows 10 alongside regular bug fixes. The update also comes with changes to comply with the European Union’s Digital Markets Act – however, these changes are set to roll out gradually rather than all at once.

The update will bring more life to the weather experience on Windows 10, including more interactive weather updates, allowing you to hover your cursor over the widget on your lock screen to see more information about current weather conditions in your area. Clicking on the weather ‘card’ will then sign you into your device and open up Microsoft Edge with a full weather broadcast.

Alongside the updated widget, update KB5034203 comes with other fixes such as addressing issues that affect BitLocker data-only encryption, the failure of some apps in Windows 10 to respond to changed keyboard language, and a fix for an annoying bug that caused the Internet Explorer shortcut to become unresponsive for some users.

Optional, but still worth an update

In terms of compliance with the European Union’s Digital Markets Act, Microsoft released a blog post directed to Windows Insiders back in November addressing plans to ensure Windows 11 and Windows 10 follow the set obligations.

The Digital Markets Act includes a wide range of requirements that Microsoft will have to adhere to within the EU – most notably, the ability for users to uninstall any Windows app, including Cortana and Edge. According to the blog post, Microsoft will “be updating Windows 10, version 22H2 and Windows 11, version 23H2 PCs in the EEA to be compliant by March 6th, 2024.”

So, we can expect more of these smaller-scale updates in the coming months to both Windows 10 and Windows 11. I'm pleased to see Microsoft continuing the effort to keep Windows 10 updated, considering many people are still quite hesitant to jump ship to Windows 11.

KB5034203 is an optional preview update at the moment, so you’ll have to install it manually if you’d like to check these features out yourself right now. Head over to the ‘Update and Security’ section of your setting and click the ‘Windows Update’ tab. There you’ll see a list of optional updates available and a link to download and install the update. Enjoy!

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Don’t panic, iPhone users – Google Maps is still bringing Live Activities to your lock screen

Google announced around this time last year that it was working on the addition of Live Activities support to the Google Maps app for iPhone and iPads, and slated it for release later in 2023, but so far it still hasn’t been released. However, new assets found in the latest version in the app indicate that Google is still working on this feature, and the wait may soon be over.

The feature will display turn-by-turn directions on the Lock Screen and in the Dynamic Island of iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 15 series handsets, providing users with real-time ETAs, directions for driving, biking, walking, public transit, and more kinds of navigation. Users can look forward to all of that in easy-to-read live notifications without having to unlock their phones and opening the app. 

I wonder if this feature will also be present on iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pro models’ Dynamic Islands, and would assume this would become standard for future iPhone models. It would also be nice to see a similar feature for Android devices (Dynamic Islands is a feature that’s exclusive to modern iPhones). 

Young woman using smartphone in Sydney

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A sign to keep your hopes up

A contributor at MacRumors, Aaron Perris, looked into the app’s assets after its most recent update, and found signs that users can remain hopeful that Google hasn’t given up adding these features to Google Maps on iPhone, despite the delay. 

This is reassuring, as while the new features were still in development as of August of last year, after that there were no strong indications that Google was pushing forward with it until now. MacRumours says that this recent discovery suggests that we might see the new feature soon. 

Apple has also opened up the Live Activities API for third-party iPhone app developers in iOS 16.1’s release. Developers have since made some handy apps and added some useful support features to existing apps, like DoorDash and United Airlines, thanks to the Live Activities API.

As an Android device user, I’m pretty jealous – this sounds like an awesome feature that makes it easier to get up and go, and stay on the move. It will make commuting with the help of your iPhone safer and more convenient, as well. I understand why iPhone users might be getting antsy after such a long delay and limited communication from Google, but it’s worth it for the Google Maps team to get it right.

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Turn your iPhone into an iPod Classic with these brilliant lock screen wallpapers

Software designers Oliur and Shane Levine have released a series of wallpapers that convert the lock screen on your iPhone into an iPod Classic.

It’s a real blast from the past. The collection is known as the iPod Wallpaper Pack, consisting of “12 high-definition wallpapers” sporting a multitude of colors. Just to name a few of the shades, you'll get the classic silver look, black, turquoise, hot pink, and lime green. But one of our favorite aspects of these covers is the attention to detail the designers gave each of them.  

Color iPods on iPhone display

(Image credit: Oliur)

One wallpaper is completely covered by heart and flower stickers, and it looks exactly like something your little sister would do to your iPod. Another has carefully placed stickers around the click wheel: AC/DC in one corner with Rockstar Games in the other. Plus, we like how a few of the selections have scratches and chipped-off paint because who among us did not drop their iPod multiple times? 

iPod on iPhone display with scratches and stickers

(Image credit: Oliur)

Availability

The date and time will hover around the same location – somewhere near the top of the screen with battery life over in the top right corner. There’s even a little bit of room for widgets in the iPod display.

Oliur’s iPod Wallpaper Pack is currently available for $ 14 on its official website. Upon purchase, the images will be placed into a 58 MB ZIP file that needs to be extracted to be used. According to tech news site T3, you can save the wallpapers by uploading them to your iCloud account if you’re buying them on your iPhone. 

If you’re curious about what happened to iPods, Apple officially retired the series back in May 2022 with the final model being the 7th generation iPod Touch. The company continued to sell the device for a little while on its online store, however, if you go on there today, it’s completely gone. It’s sold out. Nowadays if you want an iPod, you’ll have to try your luck on a third-party retailer like Amazon or Walmart.

Or better yet: get yourself something more modern. If you want recommendations, check out TechRadar’s roundup of the best MP3 player for 2023.  

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WhatsApp now lets you use secret codes to lock your private chats

WhatsApp is making its Chat Lock tool even more secure by introducing Secret Codes that will hide private chat rooms.

The way it currently works, Chat Lock takes conversations and places them into a separate folder that can only be opened with either your phone’s password or biometric login. This can be helpful if you share the device with others. However, it doesn’t stop other people who know the password from taking a peek at any time. Secret Codes addresses this by allowing users to implement a second password separate “from what you use to unlock your phone”. Creating one, according to WhatsApp’s announcement, will cause your locked folder to disappear from your inbox as an extra layer of privacy.

To make hidden chats reappear, the company states you’ll have to type your recently created code directly into the search bar on the main page. If you don't wanted the locked folder to be totally, you have the option to keep them there. 

WhatsApp is also making it easier to lock up chats. Now all you have to do is long press a conversation, tap the three dots in the upper right-hand corner, then select Lock Chat in the drop-down menu.

How to add a secret code

Let’s say you have a couple of locked chats you want to keep hidden. 

To start, tap the three dots in the top right corner, then select Chat Lock Settings. Activate Secret Code and come up with a password. What’s interesting is you can use emojis in the code alongside numbers, letters, and punctuation marks and get pretty creative. Do note the password you create must either be four characters long or be a single emoji.

We have a couple of examples in the image below.

WhatsApp Secret Code examples

(Image credit: WhatsApp)

Now, if you go to the main page, the locked folder is gone (although you can disable the disappearing folder by turning off Hide Locked Chats in the settings). Type in the code you just made into the search bar to make the conversations reappear.

Finding locked chat on WhatsApp

(Image credit: WhatsApp)

Be aware this update is for WhatsApp on mobile only as the locked chats aren't present anywhere else. No word if any of these features will make their way to desktop. Secret Codes is rolling out and will be available globally “in the coming months”. Keep an eye out for the patch when it arrives. 

Jam-packed week

This past week has been a busy one for WhatsApp as the platform recently made two other updates. We first saw the desktop app gain the ability to send “self-destructing photos and videos” which will automatically delete themselves after being opened once. A little bit before that, WhatsApp released a beta giving select users access to AI assistants with most of them sporting a unique “personality” like the anime nerd as well as the dungeon master that’ll tell you a choose-your-own-adventure story.

Big things are happening on WhatsApp with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. While we have you, we recommend following TechRadar’s official WhatsApp channel to get our latest reviews right on your phone.

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Android 14 Beta 3 is here, and it brings enhanced lock screen customization

We’re not expecting the finished version of Android 14 to roll out for another two or three months, but the beta version has just had a big update, with Android 14 Beta 3 now here, complete with new lock screen customization options for Pixel phones.

These features – spotted in Beta 3 by Mishaal Rahman – were previously teased at Google I/O 2023, and they allow you to change the colors, size, and style of the lock screen clock, as well as choosing which shortcuts to display on the lock screen.

For the clock, you can choose from a number of digital options along with one analog one, while for the shortcuts, you have a choice of mute, device controls (for smart home devices), Google Wallet, camera, do not disturb, video call, flashlight, and a QR code scanner.

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You can place one in the bottom left corner and one in the bottom right, or choose not to display shortcuts. Disappointingly though you’re limited to those options, so you can’t have truly custom shortcuts.

Still, this should be a handy update, and bring the Pixel series more in line with what’s possible on the iPhone 14, along with the other best iPhones, especially since iOS 16 introduced a similar feature. And while this implementation isn’t currently supported by other Android handsets, some manufacturers have been offering similarly capable lock screen customization for a while, anyway.

Interface tweaks and a new tutorial

This isn’t the only new feature in the Android 14 Beta 3 though, as Rahman also reports that there’s a new tutorial for gesture navigation, and there are various small interface tweaks, such as a new charging indicator, themed icons now having more vibrant colors, and more rounded buttons in the screenshot preview.

So the enhanced lock screen customization is definitely the headline feature, but there are a few other things that users might appreciate too.

Notably though, this beta has been released on the schedule Google previously set, which means we should be on target for a finished release, likely in August or September. As such, there shouldn’t be too long to go now, and we’d recommend most users wait until the final version is ready, since betas always have bugs.

That said, if you really want the latest Android 14 beta now and you have a compatible phone, you can head to our how to download the Android 14 beta guide for full step-by-step instructions.

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WhatsApp’s new Chat Lock feature will keep your private conversations safe

WhatsApp is currently rolling out a new Chat Lock feature that will ensure your private conversations stay that way.

The Chat Lock update takes chat threads and places them behind their own locked folder which can only be accessed via your device’s own password or biometrics. Additionally, the content of those conversations will be hidden in your notifications so nosy people can't see what you're talking about.

Meta states in the announcement post that Chat Lock is ideal for people who share an unlocked smartphone with family, or, as shown in the official trailer, have their device stolen by their annoying, little brother. To enable the protection, all you have to do is tap the name of the chat and select the locking option. To reveal those chats, “pull down on your inbox” then enter your password or biometric in order to unlock them. Pretty simple stuff.

There are plans to expand Chat Lock options “over the next few months”. Meta states it’ll be possible to lock your conversations on companion devices. Plus, users will soon be able to create custom passwords for the chat that differ from the ones on their smartphones.

As for the launch, the post doesn’t say whether or not this is a global rollout nor does it mention anything about being able to use Face ID to unlock chats. We reached out to Meta for clarification. This story will be updated if we hear back. 

Chat Lock feature on WhatsApp

The new Chat Lock feature on WhatsApp (Image credit: WhatsApp)

Room for improvement

Chat Lock joins WhatsApp’s long list of security features from Device Verification to end-to-end encryption and two-factor authentication, but that doesn’t mean things are perfect. There's always room for improvement as every now and again something goes wrong.

In this instance, we’re specifically referring to a recently discovered bug that allows WhatsApp to continuously use a phone’s microphone even if the app is closed. This was first discovered by a Twitter engineer who posted a screenshot of the app using the mic at least nine times in the early morning of May 6. Meta is aware of this but claims it isn’t their fault. Instead, the official WhatsApp Twitter account points the finger at Google, claiming there’s a bug in the Privacy Dashboard on Android. Regardless of whose fault it is, we do recommend turning off your microphone through your device’s settings menu to ensure complete privacy. 

But if that doesn’t satisfy you, check out TechRadar’s list of the best-encrypted messaging apps of 2023 for alternatives. 

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