WhatsApp Group Chat Finally Arrives
As promised WhatsApp group chat finally launched at the end of last week amidst a raft of updates and fixes across all platforms.
Previously, it was possible to forward a message to the wrong contact if, as you scrolled down your contacts list you inadvertently touched a contact when intending to scroll more. Now you get a “Forward to Joe Bloggs? Yes / No” window. Perfect.
But the biggest buzz has been all around WhatsApp group chat which brings the ability to carry out a WhatsApp conversation with multiple contacts simultaneously. Is is a BlackBerry Messenger killer?
Not so fast. At present there is a limit of 5 contacts per WhatsApp group chat conversation but this is likely to change in the near future.
When I asked whether there was a technical or capacity reason for the 5 contact maximum, WhatsApp told me
“We set the number at 5 as a starting point. We will raise [it] over time as the population grows comfortable with the app. There is no technical restriction”
Good to hear because many people on my Twitter timeline have commented that the limit is their only disappointment. I downloaded the update from the Android Market and had a play with group chat with some friends. This is what I found.
Starting a WhatsApp Group Chat
Here you have to provide a subject for the chat and invite the contacts you wish to participate. As you type a name into the “add participant” box WhatsApp group chat will autocomplete the name from you list of WhatsApp contacts.
You can currently add up to four contacts, giving a group chat maximum of five including yourself.
Once you have added your contacts press Done at the top right of the screen and WhatsApp group chat will create your group chat and add your contacts. A notification will display as each participant joins the group chat.
During a WhatsApp Group Chat
During a group chat conversation you can press Menu to access the Group Info. This will display the details of the other members of the group chat including their WhatsApp status and their contact picture (if there is one).
Adding group chat Participants
The Group Info menu option is where you will find settings to add additional participants if you are not already at the five maximum.
Changing the group chat subject
You can also change the subject of the chat. In my test, it appears any member of the conversation can change the conversation’s subject. A notice is added to the chat window to let everybody know you have changed the the subject.
Leaving a Group Chat
You can also leave the group chat by pressing Delete and Exit Group. This label is misleading as I thought pressing this would cancel the group chat altogether. In fact, it just exits you from the group and deletes the group from your list of chats. Other members, if any, get a notice that you have left the group chat, but they can happily continue chatting, albeit behind your back.
The WhatsApp dev team might want to think about re-labelling that button. “Exit Group” should be enough. A separate option to delete the conversation might be welcome. This would allow you to stop being disturbed by constant group chat updates, say if you’re at work or in a meeting, but allow you to keep or delete a history of the conversation up to that point, should you wish.
As with a standard one-2-one conversation you can share media files such as images and your map location. These get sent to the group as a whole, you are not able to select an individual group member to receive a media object. This is expected behaviour, as you can always revert to sending that contact a file outside of the group chat
Personally, I’m happy with WhatsApp group chat, it’s been long awaited and I think it was well worth the wait. Aside from the limit of five participants there isn’t really anything I have come across so far that I would wish to change.
Perhaps in a later update WhatsApp group chat could be improved by allowing us to invite a new contact to an existing one-2-one chat thereby creating a group chat on-the-fly, but that can wait for now.
I only have access to my Android version of WhatsApp so I’m not able to compare versions on iPhone and BlackBerry but in my opinion, WhatsApp group chat now seriously puts it up there as the major competing messaging app against BlackBerry Messenger, the bonus being its cross platform support. There really is no reason to be addicted to crack anymore, it’s bad for you.
iPhone or BlackBerry User?
Do you have WhatsApp group chat on BlackBerry or iPhone? (If you don’t have group chat in your options, simply download the latest update of WhatsApp from BlackBerry AppWorld or Apple’s AppStore. Alternatively you can go to WhatsApp directly).
How does the new group chat feature differ on your platform? Please let us know in the comments below, and if you have any tips please share them so we can all learn better ways of getting things done in WhatsApp.