After months of testing, the WhatsApp app for Mac is here. It's free, it's solid and it's an interesting alternative to Apple's FaceTime: the app enables you to make group calls from your Mac with up to 32 people in an audio call and 8 people in video.
The voice and video calling is very straightforward, and you can drop in on a group call even if you've missed the beginning. You can also choose whether to limit incoming call notifications to when the WhatsApp app is open, or to enable them at all times to ensure you don't miss any.
If like me you tend to use messaging apps to send funny things to your friends, the ability to drag files directly into the app will be a big time saver. The app also enables you to see your call history and offers end-to-end encryption to keep your conversations and calls private.
Even better than the beta
I've been using the WhatsApp Mac beta for a while now and it's really useful: the ability to see and respond to notifications on your Mac is genuinely handy, especially when it comes to busy group chats. Without the desktop app, opening the iPhone version during a tea break, lunch break or commute feels like blowing up a reservoir. So it's a great way to tame message overload, which I think WhatsApp is often prone to.
As with the beta it's really easy to get started: simply install the app (it's currently available from the WhatsApp site and is en route to the Apple and Google app stores) and if you haven't used it before, use the phone app to authenticate it by scanning an on-screen QR code.
It's a really good and useful app, but as with all big-name messaging apps there's a dark cloud hanging over it in the UK: the government's Online Safety Bill could be interpreted in such a way that services wouldn't be able to offer the end-to-end encryption that keeps your conversations private (the UK government denies this).
If implemented, the legislation could mean that services including WhatsApp, iMessage and Signal may simply shut down for UK users – a fantastic bit of foot-shooting given UK politicians' own reliance on WhatsApp for messaging. WhatsApp parent Meta is lobbying the government to change the proposed legislation, and as it's still not on the statute books your WhatsApp encryption remains in place.