WhatsApp is trying a new feature that will enable its users to message without using their phone for the first time.
Currently, the app is linked to a user’s phone. And using the app on a desktop or web page will require the device to be connected and receiving messages.
However, this new upgrade will allow the users to send and receive messages “even if your phone battery is dead”.
WhatsApp said up to four other devices – like PCs and tablets – can be used together.
Initially, the feature will be rolled out as a beta test for a “small group of users”. Then the team would make plans to improve performance and add features before launching it officially.
End-to-end encryption – a key selling point for WhatsApp – will still work under this new system, it said.
Various other messaging apps already have a similar feature. These apps also include WhatsApp rival Signal, which entails a phone for sign-up, but not to exchange messages.
About two million app users had requested this feature for such a long time.
When the move was announced Facebook said the change required a “rethink” of WhatsApp’s software design.
The company said that the reason behind this is the current version – “uses a smartphone app as the primary device, making the phone the source of truth for all user data and the only device capable of end-to-end encrypting messages for another user [or] initiating calls”.
Whereas, WhatsApp web and other apps are basically a “mirror” of what happens on the phone.
But that system has momentous downsides familiar to many regular users, as the web app is known to often disconnect.
Therefore, only one ostensible “companion app” can be active at a time. So, loading WhatsApp on another device will disconnect a WhatsApp web window.
“The new WhatsApp multi-device architecture removes these hurdles, no longer requiring a smartphone to be the source of truth, while still keeping user data seamlessly and securely synchronised and private,” the company said.
But on a technical level, WhatsApp does not store messages on its own server. This could lead to privacy concerns.
Jake Moore, a security specialist at anti-virus-company Eset, said that no matter how strong the security is, having messages on more devices could still be a concern.
“There will always be a malicious actor looking to create a workaround,” he said.
“Domestic abusers and stalkers could now have the potential of using this new feature to their advantage, by creating additional endpoints in order to capture any synchronised private communications.”
He also added that it’s the user’s responsibility to keep an eye out for any potential misuse.