Last year was great for WhatsApp users. The app added a lot of cool new features including WhatsApp Payments, forever mute for WhatsApp Groups, the much-awaited dark mode, expended WhatsApp Group Video and Voice calls as well as Disappearing Messages. Over the past year or so, WhatsApp has gained even greater importance through the course of the year 2020 as it became the default communications platform for work, for catching up with friends and for families to stay in touch. No wonder then that the WhatsApp data suggested a significant spike in usage too. In March when the Coronavirus pandemic really took its effect with lockdowns and work from home routines, users on average were spending over 15 billion minutes talking each day on WhatsApp calls, well above the pre-pandemic usage trends.
According to research firm Statista, as of October 2020, WhatsApp has 2 billion active global users, with Facebook Messenger in second place with 1.3 billion active users and WeChat following in third with 1.2 billion. India is WhatsApp’s biggest market. That neatly leads us to what is potentially in store for WhatsApp users this year. The next big set of features and capabilities that the app is expected to get, across WhatsApp for Android, WhatsApp for iPhone and WhatsApp Web. Every single change that WhatsApp makes or any new feature that it adds impacts billions of users in one go.
WhatsApp on multiple devices: This would be massive. If and when WhatsApp rolls out the ability to allow you to log in on multiple devices, you’d be able to use your WhatsApp account to log in on not just your phone, but also on a computing device or a tablet, for instance. And this will be separate from your phone, and unlike how WhatsApp Web works at this time—where it is tethered to your phone’s WhatsApp for sending and receiving messages. This functionality has been in beta testing for a while now, and it can be expected this year.
WhatsApp Payments to diversify: With WhatsApp Payments now Live for 20 million users in India to make payments using the unified payments interface (UPI) method, it is expected that WhatsApp will expand the WhatsApp Payments functionality. In December, the company had confirmed they will be collaborating with financial institutions to offer micro-insurance products to all users. WhatsApp is already working with SBI and HDFC Pensions for some products.
WhatsApp Calling from the desktop: At this time, WhatsApp web and WhatsApp for desktop does not offer the voice or video calling feature. That could change very soon. WhatsApp Web as well as the WhatsApp apps for Windows 10 and macOS are expected to add this functionality, at a time when voice and video calls are important for millions to get work done and stay in touch with friends and family. The fact that WhatsApp does not offer this functionality on computing devices has meant they have ceded a lot of ground to the likes of Google Meet, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, for group voice and video calls in particular.