WhatsApp on a major takeover, launches video calling for everyone.

WhatsApp wants to be international cross-platform FaceTime. Today Facebook-owned chat service WhatsApp is officially launching video calling for its over 1 billion users worldwide on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Its debut follows a series of reports from people who recently found the feature had been enabled in beta versions of WhatsApp on Android and on Windows Phone – an indication that a public debut was on the near horizon.


To use the new feature, WhatsApp users can hit the call button in the top right corner of a conversation, which will bring up an overlaid interstitial asking if you want to voice or video call the friend or family member you’re chatting with. To kick off the video call, you simply select the “video call” option from this screen.


During the call itself, you can switch between the forward-facing and rear camera, mute the call or press the red button to hang up. It seems the user interface varies slightly on Android and iPhone in terms of where the picture-in-picture video feed is displayed, as well as the buttons’ size, lineup and placement. (See images and video below).


WhatsApp already supports a number of standard features for communications apps, including group texting and voice calling. But the company says that video calling has remained one of its top feature requests from users.


With video calling, WhatsApp is belatedly catching up with a number of rivals, including Facebook’s own Messenger app, for example, as well as Skype, Apple’s FaceTime, Viber, LINE and Google’s recently launched Duo, to name a few.


Though a late entrant, WhatsApp still has a massive user base and the addition of the feature could help them from fleeing to other messaging and calling platforms. In addition, WhatsApp touts its cross-platform support as one of the reasons to use video calling in its app, instead of elsewhere.


“…we want to make these features available to everyone, not just those who can afford the most expensive new phones or live in countries with the best cellular networks,” the company said in its announcement, published today.


That’s a direct shot at things like FaceTime, which only works on Apple devices, as well as newer arrivals, like Google Duo, which only runs on later versions of iOS and Android (Jelly Bean and up, or iOS 9 and up).


You may not immediately see video calling in WhatsApp today, however. The rollout is staged, meaning it will arrive over the days ahead as it reaches the entire WhatsApp user base.


Video calling isn’t the only new addition to arrive recently. The company also rolled out two-factor authentication in some of its beta versions, hinting that its next big release could be a security-focused upgrade.


By retaining its simple interface but embracing more vivid connections beyond texting, WhatsApp could flourish with users no matter how they want to communicate.

WhatsApp for iOS now lets you use Siri to send messages and make calls

WhatsApp has updated its iOS app on Tuesday to let users incorporate voice-activated controls into their usage. For those with iOS 10 installed, you’ll be able to use Siri to not only send messages, but also place WhatsApp calls. By doing so, it simplifies the communication process without you even needing to type a single letter.


iOS 10 began rolling out to users today complete with Siri support for third-party integrations and the Facebook-owned messaging service is taking advantage. When enabled, you simply summon Siri and tell it to call or message someone (e.g., “Hey Siri, text Jordan Novet on WhatsApp”). Make sure that you enable the controls within your phone’s settings — iOS will prompt you to grant it access.


Siri will guide you through the process step-by-step, what’s the message you want to send, who you want to connect with, and confirming everything at the end. In initial tests, Siri appeared to recognize names it was given.

Currently only WhatsApp supports this Siri integration, but it’s likely that Facebook could roll this out to its other messaging powerhouse: Facebook Messenger. When we tried with Messenger, Siri responded with a message saying that “[Facebook] Messenger hasn’t set that up with me yet.”


Other updates to WhatsApp include being able to answer voice calls right from your lock screen as if it were a standard phone call. The company has also added a widget to let you jump to recent chats or see unread messages. If you’re forwarding messages, the app now lets you send multiple chats simultaneously and chats you frequently contact now appear automatically.


You’ll need to download the latest version of WhatsApp to use Siri-enabled voice controls. This new capability should give you the freedom to easily communicate without having to stare down at your phone and type out messages. Which, if you think about it, seems to be a much faster way to talk to someone.