If recent additions made by popular apps is any measure, video calling is the cheese to smartphone macaroni. Almost all mobile devices now come equipped with surprisingly well-made cameras, and so it’s no surprise that yet another hugely popular messaging app is on its way to adding video calling to its arsenal of available features; WhatsApp is actively testing this feature, right now. In the following guide, we’ll show you some of the appeal of WhatsApp, as well as talk about how video calling will shape its future. Additionally, we’ll offer a few pointers on how you can get involved with the testing process!
WhatsApp has been around for a while, and the process by which it was started has always been somewhat endearing, speaking right to many users’ distaste for advertising culture. WhatsApp has always been devoid of the types of advertising that often exist on popular free applications and social media platforms, which has allowed its appeal to swell in the years that it’s been active. Begun by two ex-Yahoo! developers, WhatsApp grew from small beginnings in the Apple app store to its current size, which boasts over 1 billion registered users globally. Even stacked against the mighty competition of Facebook and Google, it’s one of the largest install bases of any application ever.
This makes it far less surprising that Facebook went out of its way to acquiring WhatsApp in 2014, even though nothing that most people love about WhatsApp has changed in this process. It still remains a streamlined, effective messaging service that has the features that the majority of mobile users want.
Except, of course, video calling. Which is why we’re here, right?
It only makes sense that WhatsApp has been working on it in the background since it’s been one of the most-demanded features from all of its competitors. Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, imo Messenger, Snapchat, and not to mention FaceTime all have excellent video calling, and it wouldn’t make sense for WhatsApp to go on without offering it to those hundreds of millions of people that use it on a daily basis. Any of the mobile devices manufactured and sold in the last several years carry all of the hardware necessary to do it.
In short, video calling in WhatsApp has been an eventuality; not a question of “what if?”
Only within the past few days, developments have been made in this area. According to recent reporting, many Android users who have opted into WhatsApp beta testing (more on that, shortly!) have reported that a video calling feature has shown up amidst the app’s options. Though it hasn’t been functional and is said to be currently disabled, it’s definitely a surefire sign that the feature is on the way, and will soon be available for a few lucky people to take for a test drive.
No matter what platform you’re on, there’s little stop you from getting onboard with WhatsApp. It’s available for most mobile devices, and also has a desktop client for Windows and Mac users (though, you’ll need to have it installed on your phone in order to use them.)
The reason that WhatsApp maintains such a mobile-centric focus is tied closely to the reason it’s so popular. WhatsApp has always allowed users to send text messages to their various contacts via data, rather than a traditional SMS text message format. This allows users to circumvent those attached fees from their cellular providers by taking advantage of online data.
Since it’s such an effective stand-in for your phone’s text messaging function, every WhatsApp profile is tied to your mobile phone number; in order to create a profile, that number is required. Given WhatsApp’s tradition of providing an effective messaging alternative to its millions of users, it’s understandable that they’ll all want their long-time alternative to having all of the popular features. Voice calling has been a part of WhatsApp for over a year, now, so video calling is simply a step further in the right direction.
Opting into the Android Beta
However, we don’t have video calling yet, and even though some Android users have reported seeing the option in the WhatsApp beta, it still hasn’t been functional. If you’d like to stand a chance of being able to join in on the beta testing, however, the process is actually fairly simple. However, there are a few obvious requirements that you’ll have to meet in order to do so:
- Have an active Google account.
- Own and use an Android device.
- Download WhatsApp from the Google Play store.
If you’ve accomplished all of these things, simply follow this link to the opt-in form for the WhatsApp beta test. You won’t be required to download anything else, but if you’ve done it correctly, you’ll receive notification that the features currently being beta-tested in the app will now be available to you. Note: You must be signed into your Google account before you’ll be able to opt in. Double-check before you click!
Alternatives for Video Calling
Even opting into the WhatsApp beta won’t give you instant access to video calling, however. It’s just a beta test, after all, so in the meanwhile, consider taking advantage of several top-notch apps that already support it!
Even though millions of people tout WhatsApp as their favorite messenger, the fact that you can give video calling a try on other, free messaging platforms is plenty of reason to do so. The following options all carry the same availability as WhatsApp: they’re free and also available across a wide variety of devices and operating systems.
If you’re looking for a well-rounded messaging app that all but explodes into a plethora of extra features when used properly, you’ll enjoy Facebook Messenger. Connected at the roots to the popular social media platform that plays host to practically everyone, this app has video and audio calling, messaging, and link-sharing features that place it well ahead of most of the competition.
Unlike WhatsApp, you’ll need to be “Facebook friends” with anyone that you want to do a video call with; it won’t simply take advantage of the contacts already listed on your phone. The call quality and connection stability are top-notch, though, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more well-rounded service.
Google is the other online, multimedia and communications giant that now plays host to a robust messaging system. Getting a Google account is free, and can be done with only a few clicks over in Gmail. Once you’ve done so, however, you’ll have access not only to Hangouts, but also Drive and Photos, two exceptionally strong (and exceptionally free) cloud-based online storage systems for documents, photos, and videos.
Hangouts on its own is a great service, and hosts audio and video calls, as well as simple messaging features. You’ll need that Google account in order to access it (and so too will all of the people that you talk to on it) but considering how easy it is to create one, it doesn’t stand as much of a barrier.
It’s tempting to refer to Skype as “old faithful,” since in terms of providing messaging and video calling services, it’s the “old dog” of the current pack of hip, trendy apps. While it received a much needed aesthetic update after being acquired by Microsoft, its basic services have remained the same. As long as you don’t mind the app’s somewhat excessive feature-bloat, you’ll find a reliable messaging application that has support for just about everything you’d want–one on one video calls, conferences, audio calls, and text messaging support.
Additionally, Skype isn’t tethered to any other services. Whereas Facebook Messenger will require you to have a Facebook account, and Google Hangouts will require you to have a Google account, Skype will register with any active email address that you give it. It doesn’t even require the use of your mobile phone number, though that option is available.
All in all, there are quite a few competing options that currently offer top-notch video calling, and they’re also all available across a wide variety of platforms, just like WhatsApp. For iOS users, FaceTime remains an appealing option, but I hesitate to include it on this list, being that it’s tied exclusively to one type of device and a single operating system. Most others are definitely available on Android and iOS both while also extending to Windows and Mac computers.
Whether you’re an avid WhatsApp user or someone who’s finally finding out about this longstanding, popular messaging app, it’s a reassurance to know that its developers are definitely working on incorporating video calling, in some form or fashion. Considering that it’s beginning to show up for the app’s beta testing audience, there’s even a good chance that we’ll see it deployed to the public sometime in 2016. Until that time comes, we hope that our above guide has prepared you for what to expect, informed you on how you might opt into the beta testing process, and also recommended some excellent alternatives for video calling, until WhatsApp decides its own is ready.