WhatsApp just got a big voice upgrade

Good news for group chatters: there's now a new and less disruptive way to take part in massive conversations

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It's hard to remember sometimes when your social network feeds are full of people endlessly promoting themselves or their projects. But one of the things many people want to do on social networks is talk to the people they're connected to. And a new WhatsApp feature is designed to do just that.

If you're thinking "hang on, doesn't WhatsApp already have voice calls?" you're right, but this is a bit different and works differently too. The new feature, which is rolling out over the next few weeks, is available in large group chats. Where the existing group voice chat features are designed for up to 32 users, this new feature – initially at least - is for chats where there are 33 people or more. The current upper limit is 128 people. 

What does the new WhatsApp voice chat feature for groups do?

The new feature doesn't ring you; instead, it sends you a notification when a voice chat has begun. If you want to join in then it's just a matter of tapping on the notification to be added to the voice session. A banner along the bottom of the screen will let you know when other people join.

If you're the one initiating the chat, it's just as simple. Open the group chat you want to get verbal with, tap the waveform icon in the top right corner of the screen, and then tap on Start Voice Chat.

Whether you're the creator or a participant, you can leave the chat by tapping on the big red X icon.

There are some limitations. In addition to the current group number limits – 33 to 128 people – the new group voice calling feature is only currently available in the iOS and Android apps, and only on your primary device. 

It's interesting to compare WhatsApp with X/Twitter; while the latter's owner bloviates about making his social network the "everything app" for every single kinds of online activity, Meta appears to be getting on with the job of actually building it. If you look at the product announcements from just the last few months, WhatsApp has added video messages, a Mac desktop app, global channels, a whole bunch of business features including in-app payments, train seat selection, food ordering and appointment booking and much more. Mark Zuckerberg does seem to be putting his money where Elon Musk's mouth is.

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. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).