WhatsApp has finally started rolling out the much-awaited multi-device capability that will allow users to access the instant messaging app not just on their phones but also on up to four non-phone devices at the same time. The new development, that is initially a limited public beta test, comes months after the rumour mill suggested its behind-the-scenes existence. WhatsApp says that it “had to rethink” its architecture and design new systems to bring multi-device support to its final shape. The Facebook-owned company is also claimed to preserve its privacy and end-to-end encryption while enabling the new experience.
Although WhatsApp has been allowing users to access its platform simultaneously on a secondary device such as a desktop or laptop for some time, the latest update is meant to provide a standalone multi-device experience in which users don’t even need their phones to be connected to the Internet or could even be switched off. This is helpful in many cases.
So, for instance, even if your phone’s battery is dead, you will still be able to access WhatsApp on your laptop using the new multi-device capability. This will also come into picture if the Internet connection on your phone is unstable but you have a stable network connected to your desktop.
WhatsApp has been working on the multi-device capability for the last several months — some references suggested its progress since July 2019. The company says that it developed new technologies to maintain end-to-end encryption while keeping your data such as message history, contact names, and starred messages in sync seamlessly across devices.
“WhatsApp multi-device uses a client-fanout approach, where the WhatsApp client sending the message encrypts and transmits it N number of times to N number of different devices — those in the sender and receiver’s device lists,” the firm explained in a detailed post. “Each message is individually encrypted using the established pairwise encryption session with each device. Messages are not stored on the server after they are delivered.”
Alongside messages, WhatsApp has retained its end-to-end encryption for voice and video calls available on multiple devices. The company also says that it syncs data such as message history and application state data including contact names and whether a chat is archived or if a message is starred across devices. The data that is synced between devices is also claimed to be end-to-end encrypted.
Users who are getting the multi-device capability on their WhatsApp account will be able to link new companion devices by scanning a QR code from their phone. This is identical to how you can connect your account on WhatsApp Web or desktop today. You will also be asked for biometric authentication before linking. Further, at any point of time, you will have the ability to log out from a companion device or see all the devices linked to your account and when they were last used.