WhatsApp is rolling out a small update that could have a big impact on how people respond to each other in the app.
Coming to both Android and iOS, users on WhatsApp will soon be able to react to messages with any kind of emoji (opens in new tab) beyond the current group of six. And judging from the announcement video, other skin tones besides the base cartoonish yellow are included in the update. This change comes just a few months after the developers added the first round of emoji reactions, which was another highly requested update.
You can update WhatsApp on your phone to see if the revamped emoji reactions are available to you. We asked WhatsApp if there is a set date for when the feature will arrive for everyone, but we didn’t get a response. It appears that the update is coming out in waves instead of all at once. So if you don’t see the update the first time you check, you should try again later.
For those who did manage to get the update, they’ll notice that it functions just like the emoji reaction feature on Instagram. You long-press on a message, then you tap the Plus icon, and the entire emoji library pops up in front of you.
Hiding online status
Aside from the new emoji reactions, WhatsApp is currently working on two new features that improve upon chat logs and privacy.
The first upcoming change will allow users to sync their chat logs across multiple mobile devices. It’s similar to how Apple’s iMessage functions. If you log into WhatsApp on a different device, you will have an updated chat without anything missing. Reports state the feature will launch on both Android and iOS, but since it’s still in early development, that may be a while.
The other big change will allow users to hide their online status. According to WABetaInfo (opens in new tab), users can either let everyone see that they’re online or configure it to match their Last Seen status, which has its own options. If someone wants to match their online status to Last Seen, they can choose from “Everyone,” “My Contacts,” “My Contacts Except,” or “Nobody”. My Contacts Except allows you to choose which people on your contacts list can see your online status.
WABetaInfo claims that hiding an online status has been a highly requested feature from users who want to use the app without being disturbed by others or if they feel like someone is stalking them. This feature is also currently under development so it’ll be a while before we see an official launch. WABetaInfo states it’ll come out on iOS, Android, and even the desktop version of WhatsApp.
Analysis: Healthy Competition
With regard to the emoji reactions, it feels like this is a direct response to Telegram. Things are heating up between the two services because whenever one app adds a new feature, the other quickly adds its own version.
For example, Telegram added stickers and message reactions to its Premium version, and a few days later WhatsApp added the first six emoji reactions. Now we have the entire emoji library for free. When WhatsApp began testing a new file transfer limit, Telegram launched its own version a couple of months later that can support up to 2GB for free or 4GB for Premium users.
This little battle, though, is good news for users. It’s led to better services and long-requested features on both platforms. If you’re interested in learning which app we think is best, we compared Telegram, WhatsApp, and Signal a few years ago to see which one is the most secure.