While it's safe to say that the majority of conversations and calls in WhatsApp take place between two individuals, there are plenty of instances in which group calls make much more sense. Whatever the reason for participating in a WhatsApp group, two new features are landing that improve things greatly.
Group icon editing and group call shortcuts are new options that have been spotted in the iOS and Android versions respectively, but it shouldn't be long before all users of Facebook's popular chat app have access to these functions.
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It is iOS beta testers who get the first look at a new group icon editor option. This makes it possible to create a distinctive icon for a group based on emoji and stickers. It’s a feature that is not yet available for everyone, but you can check to see whether you have access to it by opening Group Info for a group you are involved in.
You can then tap the camera icon to change the group icon and, hopefully, see a new Emoji & Sticker option. You can then browse through the available imagery as well as choosing a background color to quickly create your custom icon to aid identification at a glance.
Android beta testers have access to a different new option related to groups – the ability to place group voice and video calls via new shortcuts. New buttons to start voice or video calls can be found on the group card giving you a way to very quickly instigate a call.
At the moment, both of these features are visible to testers using the latest beta versions of the WhatsApp mobile app, but it hopefully won’t be too long before they roll out to everyone. Equally, while the two diffident features have been spotted in the iOS and Android versions separately, WhatsApp tends to strive for feature parity, so it shouldn’t be the case that iPhone users have access to something that Android users don’t, and vice versa – at least not for long.
Analysis: modern options for modern times
There is no denying that the arrival of Covid-19 and the ensuing lockdowns, quarantining and self-isolating that followed around the world has changed the way we communicate. More and more people turned to video chat tools to keep in touch with friends, family and work colleagues.
In many instances, this means chatting with several people at once rather than operating on a one-on-one basis. As such, it makes complete sense that WhatsApp would introduce tools to help make life a little easier in group calls and chats.
The ability to edit a group icon means that the potential risk of jumping into a chat and saying the wrong thing to the wrong people is reduced. Similarly positive is the arrival of calling shortcuts – it's something else that just helps to make life a little easier.
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Sofia is a tech journalist who's been writing about software, hardware and the web for nearly 25 years – but still looks as youthful as ever! After years writing for magazines, her life moved online and remains fueled by technology, music and nature.
Having written for websites and magazines since 2000, producing a wide range of reviews, guides, tutorials, brochures, newsletters and more, she continues to write for diverse audiences, from computing newbies to advanced users and business clients. Always willing to try something new, she loves sharing new discoveries with others.
Sofia lives and breathes Windows, Android, iOS, macOS and just about anything with a power button, but her particular areas of interest include security, tweaking and privacy. Her other loves include walking, music, her two Malamutes and, of course, her wife and daughter.