The desire for encrypted communications is no longer limited to spies, informants, and journalists. Amidst news of widespread surveillance, secure messaging apps like Signal and WhatsApp are quickly picking up new users.
WhatsApp has surpassed a billion users and while most of them are outside the United States, the app added over 2 million users from 2015 to 2016 here, going from about 16 million to just under 19 million users.
WhatsApp makes it easy to keep in touch with far-flung friends on the cheap. It's free to text and call as long as you have a Wi-Fi or data connection. The IM-style service is more popular than the very similar Facebook Messenger, likely because it works on feature phones, which are common outside the US, and because it isn't directly tied to Facebook, despite being owned by the huge social network.
Aside from casual communication, WhatsApp is also becoming integral for industries in places like India, where hospitals use it for everything from shift scheduling to transplant planning. Whatever you're using WhatsApp for, though, you likely don't know everything it can do. Read on for our top tips.
Get PinnedIf there's a special someone on WhatsApp that you chat with more than anyone, you can pin a chat to the top of your messages list. Go to the Chats tab and find the chat you want to make a priority. Swipe right and select Pin.
Prying EyesDo you want to be friendly but not give too much away on WhatsApp? Then protect your privacy by going to Settings > Account > Privacy. There you can change who can see when you were last active, your profile photo, and status. You can also turn off read receipts, though you will then in turn not be able to see others' read receipts.
Back It UpTo save chats, whether you're sentimental or stocking up on blackmail material, you can go to Settings > Chats > Chat Backup > Back Up Now.
You're a StarHave a message you want to save? Star it so it's easily accessible. Tap and hold the message and the Star icon will appear. To unstar it, do the same. The message is now viewable by going to Settings > Starred Messages.
PsssstYou can password protect WhatsApp but only if you have Android and go through a third party (iOS users cannot lock an app with another app). Google Play has plenty of apps that can password protect WhatsApp and most other apps.
Take Your Friends With YouWhatsApp doesn't just operate on your phone. You can communicate when you're at your computer, too. On your computer go to web.whatsapp.com. On your phone, go to Settings > WhatsApp Web, and scan the QR code on your computer screen with your phone. There are also desktop apps for Windows and Mac.
Group TherapyIf one of your #squadgoals is to never be out of touch with each other, then you'll want to start a group chat. Go to the Chats tab and select New Group. Name the group, and select an image if you want one associated with it. Tap Next and add participants by either selecting the + and adding them from a list or by typing in each name individually. Select Create when you're done.
Shout It Out
To send a message to multiple people without them realizing they're on a group chat, use the broadcast list feature. You can only use this with those who have you in their contact list.
To broadcast, go to Chats > Broadcast Lists and either select an existing list or create a new one by clicking New List and typing in contact names. When recipients reply, it will be only to you and not the rest of the list.
Passing NotesLast year, WhatsApp rolled out the ability to send documents to contacts. To send, tap the (+) sign next to the text field (iOS) or the paperclip icon at the top of the screen (Android). On iOS, choose a doc from iCloud Drive or tap More for other options, like Google Drive (above). On Android, select the document you want to send and tap Send in the popup.
Jazz Up Your Photos, Chats
In October, WhatsApp took a page from Snapchat, Instagram, and Skype—all of which allow the addition of text and doodles to images. On WhatsApp, editing tools appear automatically after capturing a new photo or video, or importing one saved on the phone. Then you can add text in different colors and fonts (check out instructions for iPhone and Android). WhatsApp also now lets you use flash on the front-facing camera so you'll be well-lit for all selfies you send.
And what's a chat app without GIFs? To add them to your chats on iOS, tap the (+) button > Photos & Video Library > GIF button on bottom left. On Android, tap the emoji button and select GIF at the bottom of the screen.
WhatsApp celebrated its eighth birthday by giving users the ability to expand their status updates beyond text. Photos, GIFs, and videos that disappear in 24 hours can now be shared with contacts.
First you're going to want to control who sees your status update. Open WhatsApp and tap the Status icon in the bottom tray, then select Privacy. You'll be able to choose between your contacts, your contacts with the exception of some chosen people, and just contacts that you hand select.
Now to use the feature. Tap Status > My Status. It will open to the camera feature where you can take a photo or record a video. Or you can select the photo icon, where you will see your library of photos that you can select from. Also, at the bottom of that screen you will be able to tap GIF to search Giphy. Then just tap the send icon and whoever you chose to see your status will receive it.
Picture PerfectWhatsApp has stepped up its photo game. When you get four or more photos or videos in a row from one person, they will now be grouped together in a tile-display album within the message. If you tap it, you'll see a full-screen view of each image or video.
Hey Man, Nice ShotLet's face it, filters make for good photos, and you can filter your photos, GIFs, and videos right in a WhatsApp message. Just tap the camera icon and either select an image from your library or take one and then swipe up to select one of five filters (pop, black and white, cool, chrome, and film).
Seen and HeardWhatsApp has finally added video calling. To make a video call, go to Chats, tap the person you'd like to call, and select the phone icon at the top of the screen. Then tap Video call.
Doing the Two-StepTwo-step verification is a must if you're concerned about security. If you decide you want it on WhatsApp, you'll have to enter a six-digit passcode when you use the app, but the inconvenience is worth the peace of mind. To enable it, go to Settings > Account > Two-Step Verification > Enable, and you'll be asked to create a passcode. Make sure to also enter your email address when prompted so you can disable two-step verification if you ever forget your passcode.
Get a Word InSure, you can type in the text box like anybody but there's also an alternate way to reply to a message. Just swipe right and start typing your response immediately.
Document EverythingAttach documents to a chat by opening the chat and tapping the plus sign. Click on Document and choose the source you want to send it from.
Photo FinishLove them or hate them, you can take care of a series of photos you've received in one fell swoop. If you've been sent multiple photos, tap them and hold and you'll be presented with a choice to forward them all or delete them all.