WhatsApp in 2020: dark mode, shopping, ads and everything else to expect

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It's been a busy year for WhatsApp; the long awaited call waiting function finally arrived, letting you see if someone is trying to reach you while you're speaking to someone else, fingerprint unlock gave us a more secure alternative to passwords, and 

There were a few hiccups along the way, including a bug that let one malicious message delete entire group chats, and a vulnerability that meant it was possible to take control of a user's phone using a specially made MP4.

Despite rumours earlier in the year, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram weren't merged into one colossal social app. However, Facebook did court controversy by adding its (somewhat tainted) name to WhatsApp's splash screen, and more significant changes are afoot behind the scenes as the three apps are tied more closely together.

We're expecting some big updates for WhatsApp throughout 2020, so here's our guide to everything we expect to see in the coming year.

WhatsApp splash credit

(Image credit: WhatsApp Inc)

Dark mode

In 2020, we should finally see the official launch of WhatsApp dark mode. It’s surprising it’s taken so long for the messaging app to receive a darker design, but assets tucked away in the install files for the beta release suggest that it’s very nearly ready for public testing.

In fact, we may be gifted not one dark mode, but two, with a special option designed specifically for power-saving on devices with AMOLED screens..

It also seems that it’ll be possible to either activate dark mode manually, or have the app switch to it automatically when your phone’s power saving settings are enabled.

Perhaps we'll finally see the full launch of Facebook dark mode and Instagram dark mode for all devices, including older operating systems, as well.

Self-destructing messages

Another feature we’ve been expecting some time is the ability to create messages that will be deleted automatically after a short period of time, for improved privacy. Many rival messaging apps already offer this, and we know that WhatsApp has been working on it for some time.

The feature was initially known as ‘Disappearing messages’, but is now being referred to as ‘Delete messages’. Based on evidence from WhatsApp beta install files, it looks like messages can be deleted automatically after an hour, a day, a week, a month or a year.

WhatsApp shopping

(Image credit: Shutterstock)


Yes, they're finally coming. At the 2019 Facebook Marketing Summit in the Netherlands, the company presented a slideshow demonstrating how it intends to work ads into WhatsApp. It intends to start inserting them into WhatsApp Status posts in 2020, with full-screen promotions that will appear in between updates from your contacts.

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It's possible that these ads will tie into the ability for businesses to take payments in WhatsApp, letting them effectively run whole stores there.

No support for old phones

There's a chance that the date may be pushed back depending on pressure from users, but WhatsApp is due to stop supporting many older Android and iOS devices from February 1 2020. 

As explained on the app's FAQ page, devices running operating systems older than Android 2.3.7 or iOS 8 will lose access to WhatsApp after that date. Essentially, that means if you have an iPhone 4 or older, or an Android device from before 2011 (such as the Google Nexus One or the original Samsung Galaxy S), it’s unlikely you’ll be able to install WhatsApp from the App Store or Google Play.

Reverse image search

According to WABetaInfo, which specializes in tearing down pre-release apps in search of interesting hints of new features, one of the new features to arrive in 2020 may be a reverse image search tool that will help you find out where a picture you've received originally came from.

It's likely that it's intended to help stem the spread of fake news through the app, much like the 'frequently forwarded' warning that has rolled out to WhatsApp users in India, alerting them if a particular message has been passed along more than five times (probably without any investigation into whether or not it's true).

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)