WhatsApp expands group video chats to take on Zoom
In versions 184.108.40.206 (the iOS beta of TestFlight) and 2.20.133 (the Android beta from the Google Play Store), the video chat function for WhatsApp has been expanded. The participant limit for video calls increases from four to eight. This is not yet at Zoom levels, but it should be enough for the whole family to call their grandparents.
As recently as early April, WhatsApp proudly announced that it would offer video calls for groups of up to four people. Now the limit is to be raised further – to double the amount. The new feature was first seen at WABetainfo, the hot source for new and upcoming WhatsApp features.
As always, it is important to curb your anticipation. Many of you won't be able to invite seven friends to video call in WhatsApp today or tomorrow. Often you will have to sign up for TestFlight (iOS) or Beta (Android) on the relevant app store first, and those places are often limited.
And even after installing one of the versions mentioned above, the feature will not necessarily be active immediately. You may need to reinstall completely to have WhatsApp load new configuration files from the servers, but even then, you may not be part of the A/B test subject group that sees the new video chat limits.
The other catch is that you have to convince seven other participants to get the new feature working. Because even with an invitation, the new functionality does not simply become active. What exactly is technically behind the increase of the limit is not known.
In any case, no one in the wild has ever successfully placed a WhatsApp call with more than four people. But that will probably change soon.
The competition never sleeps
While WhatsApp's larger competitor Telegram still has no official video chat function and the class leader Zoom is keeping the data protectors awake at night, the privacy-conscious Messenger Threema is slowly upgrading. There, video calls go into the beta phase (blog post).
Group video calls, however, are missing from the alternatives Threema, Signal, and most importantly, Telegram. So WhatsApp is moving towards finding a new unique selling point, even if it is still far from Google Hangouts Meet, Jitsi (highly recommended) or Zoom.