WhatsApp has over a billion users in the world, and is one of the fastest growing social networks. It’s technically an instant messenger though, but new features make it ever more powerful.
Last year, the company introduced WhatsApp voice calling to let users make phone calls over the internet. This year, the new addition is WhatsApp video calling. It was a beta feature until last month, but now it’s officially released for everyone and all platforms.
What to Know About WhatsApp Video Calls
Video calling is exactly what it sounds like. You “call” a friend with the WhatsApp, and both of you can see each other on your smartphone screens. It’s like what Skype has been doing for years.
WhatsApp video calling works across the three major mobile operating systems: Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. This makes WhatsApp one of the best smartphone apps for free cross-platform video calls.
It is technically free, in the sense that WhatsApp isn’t charging you any money to make the call. However, video calls need internet, so it will be consuming data from your phone’s data plan. If you are using WhatsApp Call over a Wi-Fi connection, your phone’s network carrier (e.g. AT&T, Vodafone, etc.) won’t charge you anything. A quick reminder, you can check how much data WhatsApp has used.
Existing users will need to update their app, while new users can download it. The feature is available on Android right now, and will be rolling out to iOS and Windows Phone within a day. WhatsApp is completely free.
This is the only official way to get WhatsApp video calling. Don’t fall for WhatsApp scams that offer other ways to get the feature.
What You Can Do With WhatsApp Video Calls
WhatsApp’s video calls are a part of the existing voice calls feature. Placing a video call is pretty simple. You choose the contact you want to talk to, tap the phone icon next to their name, and choose “Video Call” from the dialog that pops up. Here’s a quick demonstration:
The other person can answer or reject the call. If they answer, you’re ready to go.
By default, it uses the front-facing camera of your phone. This doesn’t include the front-facing “flash” which is one of WhatsApp’s new features you should know about. However, you can switch this to the rear camera at any point with a tap on the screen. It’s seamless and just works.
You can also mute the microphone, so the other person can see you but not hear you. To mute the audio from the speakers, use your phone’s volume buttons.
With the new video call feature, Whatsapp is now everything Skype and FaceTime is.
— Wale Adetona (@iSlimfit) November 15, 2016
Better Internet Speeds
Whenever you make a video call, WhatsApp does not assume any internet speed. So it will calculate your speed each tie, and adjust the video quality accordingly. This makes a remarkable difference in how good the video looks.
One Redditor made a short clip comparing WhatsApp video calls and Apple’s FaceTime. WhatsApp looks far better in that battle. Watch it for yourself:
We tried WhatsApp Video Calling on 4G, 3G, and 2G networks, and it worked on all three. The 2G network’s video quality was poor and pixellated, but it was still smooth enough to know what was happening on screen. The lack of lag was refreshing.
Multi-Tasking While on Call
The second highlight of WhatsApp’s video calls is the multi-tasking feature. Most smartphone video calls force you to use the video call and nothing else. You can’t multi-task. However, WhatsApp has no such restrictions.
You can tap the “Message” button at any point to check other messages that someone has sent you on WhatsApp, and even reply to them. To return to your video call, tap the green bar at the top of the app.
What You Can’t Do With WhatsApp Video Calls
Although it works well, there are still a few missing features in WhatsApp Video Calls. And those can be dealbreakers for some people.
No WhatsApp Web or Desktop Support
While WhatsApp requires a smartphone and an active internet connection, you can still use it on a computer. You can do it via the WhatsApp desktop client or the WhatsApp Web browser client. However, neither of these support video calls.
On the other hand, apps like Skype or FaceTime are available on both computers and phones, and can cross-call between the two. This might be a big issue for some people.
No Group Video Calls
WhatsApp video calls are only one-to-one. It’s a little disappointing, since WhatsApp’s group chats are one of its most popular features.
So, if you want to chat face to face with a group of friends, you’re going to need to use a different app. Right now, Appear.in is probably your best bet, although Skype and other video call apps also support this.
How Much Data Does Video Calling Use?
WhatsApp’s focus is to make the video call look as good as possible. So if it can give you higher quality, it’s going to do that. And that results in high data usage. If you’re not on Wi-Fi, this can quickly eat through cellular data caps.
On average, we found a minute’s call to use 5 MB of data on 4G, 3.75 MB on 3G, and 3 MB on 2G. This isn’t bad at all, and much less than what we expected. A few Twitter users also recorded similar numbers:
10 minute WhatsApp video call on 4G LTE = 50.9MB data
— Kabelo ???? (@Kabelo_Moagi) November 2, 2016
WhatsApp’s settings have an option to reduce the data used on voice calls. If you’re worried about data usage, you can try this option to see if it also reduces video call data. And there are other ways to WhatsApp’s reduce data usage.
Have You Tried WhatsApp Video Calling?
Have you got the new WhatsApp video calling feature and tried it out? What do you think of it? Did it work well for you, or did you have any troubles?