WhatsApp adds voice and video calling to desktop app

Users will be able to answer or make calls directly from their computers, without having to reach for their phones

A laptop on a cluttered desk with WhatsApp logo displayed on screen

WhatsApp has updated its desktop app with new video and voice calling features, adapting its offering to the age of remote working.

The new tools will make it easier for users to answer or make calls directly from their computers, without having to reach for their mobile phones.

In order to enable desktop calling, users will be asked to grant WhatsApp permission to access their computer’s microphone and camera. They will also need to own an operating system no older than Windows 10 64-bit version 1903 or macOS 10.13.

Desktop video calls will also work “seamlessly for both portrait and landscape orientation”, appearing in a resizable standalone window.

A company spokesperson told IT Pro that the desktop app will be linked to users’ mobile app, with conversations still being based on phone numbers and requiring an active internet connection on the computer and phone alike. Although the call won’t go through the user’s phone, it will need the phone to be online to establish the call.

WhatsApp Business app users will also be able to make desktop calls, the company’s spokesperson told IT Pro. However, group calls will not be supported on WhatsApp Desktop for the time being.

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The company also announced that, on New Year’s Eve, it had broken “the record for the most calls ever made in a single day with 1.4 billion voice and video calls”.

The announcement comes almost a year after reports that the company was trialling a beta version of WhatsApp Web, which would let users create a group video call using Facebook Messenger Rooms. The feature, which was spotted as one of the shortcuts in the beta’s WhatsApp menus in the 2.2019.6 Web update, would allow users to make calls with up to 50 people - a significant increase from the eight-way video calls which came with WhatsApp’s April 2020 update.

April of last year also saw the release of Facebook’s Messenger Rooms, which was launched in an attempt to capitalise on the heightened demand for video conferencing during the pandemic lockdown.

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