WhatsApp just got a big photo and video upgrade

The latest app update gives you the ability to send and receive completely uncompressed images and videos

WhatsApp on iPhone
(Image credit: Rik Henderson / Future)

WhatsApp's engineers are a busy bunch, adding new features so frequently we hope they've got a very long break scheduled for Christmas. And the latest new feature, which was first spotted in the beta of the app, is a big one. You'll now be able to send photos and videos in original quality to ensure the recipient gets the best possible versions of whatever you send.

The feature was first spotted by the eagle eyed code diggers of wabetainfo.com, and it's now made it into the release version of the app. In the changelog, it says that "you can easily send original quality media as a file. Tap '+' in chat > Document> Choose Photo or Video to get started".

That's not the only new feature. You can now start voice chats for large groups without ringing, reply quickly to messages with one of six avatar reactions, and see new chat bubbles to let you know about missed, ongoing and completed calls.

What's so different about the new photo feature?

The new feature is above and beyond the recent addition of an HD quality option for sending images or movies. That was better than the previous quality setting, but it's still compressed – which means that some of the original information is removed in order to keep the file size down. That's useful if you're on a limited data plan or in an area where the signal isn't great and sending or receiving things is painfully slow, but on a decent wireless connection you might prefer to get the original image or video. 

Uncompressed files are much bigger than compressed ones, everything else being equal, but the file sharing here isn't unlimited: there's a 2GB data limit for each individual photo or video you want to send. 

The way WhatsApp has implemented this is interesting, because rather than send the media as an inline image or video it's sent as a file. That means it addresses one of the questions I had about it, which was: does this mean auto-downloads will fill up my phone by adding massive files to my Photos library? This approach means that won't happen: you'll need to choose to download and open them. 

The new feature is in version 23.24.73 of the app, which doesn't appear to have rolled out everywhere just yet; as ever with WhatsApp updates, the rollout won't take more than a few days so you should see it on your phone the next time the app updates.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).