The text message is dead! And in its place, long live the more popular, more flexible, more user-friendly – and now entirely free – WhatsApp.
With the annual fee having long since been knocked on the head and video calling having finally landed alongside better video viewing, there’s now nothing standing between you and endless chats.
That means it’s time to progress beyond the basics and learn to become a WhatsApp wizard.
From dodging awkward messages without the guilt to keeping the adult stuff private, here are the WhatsApp tips and tricks that will turn you into a messaging master.
1. Hide the fact that you’re ignoring someone
Disabling those giveaway double blue ticks (Settings > Account > Privacy > Read Receipts) is a great way to avoid the ‘I know you’ve read it’ message rebuttals when opting to ignore someone. Turn them off all the time, however, and suspicion might start to grow.
And yet you can hide that you’ve read messages on an individual basis. Before you open the questionable chat, switch your phone to airplane mode. You can now read away with no alert being sent. Now exit the message before you turn airplane mode off again, and it will remain unread – well, in the sender’s eyes at least. Cue evil laugh.
2. Enjoy guilt-free message dodging by hiding your ‘last seen’ time.
WhatsApp’s double blue ticks are a backstabbing homing beacon for social snubbing. However, they’re not the only notifier out to show up your message-dodging deceit. Your ‘last seen’ time is a second layer of unwanted attention when you’re desperately trying to avoid an awkward conversation.
You can turn it off though. By heading to Settings > Account > Privacy > Last Seen, you can decide who, if anyone, you want to see when you’ve last been active. Finally, guilt-free ignoring is possible.
3. Magically recover deleted messages
*Smiles*, *brags*, *accidentally presses delete* …and as simple as that, the number of that pretty girl/ guy is gone. All is not lost, though, for there is a way to bring back messages from the dead. You’re going to have to pre-empt your message deleting misfortunes here a little bit though.
If you’ve set up daily backup for your favoured chats (see tip #11), WhatsApp will, in the wee hours of the morning, save that day’s messages to the cloud.
Now, if you accidentally delete messages or entire chats, you can simply recover the lost content with Harry Potter-levels of wizardry by reinstalling the app. Phone numberious, returnerum!
4. Quote your friends to prove them wrong
Instead of scrolling back through hundreds of rambling messages, taking a screenshot of the proof that your pal said they’d arrive two hours ago, then cropping it and sending it back – you can now simply quote them.
Sure, you’ll still have to give your thumb a sizeable workout by scrolling back to the message you want, but once you have it, you can simply hold down on it, then hit the left arrow on Android or the ‘reply’ button on iOS to deliver your WhatsApp mic drop. This feature will handily link them back to that message if they need added context as well.
5. Throw in some bold and italics to get your point across
WhatsApp is great for most things. Sensing tone isn’t always one of them though. Fortunately there’s a hidden little feature to help you better get your point across and help your friends understand the urgency of your messages. You can add bold, italics, and even strikethrough.
How? Well, sadly it’s not as easy as simply clicking the corresponding button. Instead, every time you want to put a bit of emphasis on a certain word, you’ll have to put the desired command shortcut around the words you want to stand out.
To bold up, you need to but an asterisk on either side of the word, like *this*, while italics need an underscore on either side of a _word_, and strikethrough a tildes (those squiggly hyphens), just like ~this~. Feeling jazzy? You can even combine commands for *_bolditalics_* attention grabbing.
6. Mute group chat notifications for personal sanity
You just wanted to know what time you were supposed to be meeting at the pub tomorrow. But that one simple question has resulted in three hours of WhatsApp-based ‘banter’ between your cretinous mates. Each ‘your mum’ joke and unwitty aside at an ex’s expense is now just a movie-interrupting, sleep-preventing irritant.
Well, no more – it’s time to hit the big red mute button. In a chat, simply select the name at the top to launch an in-message settings menu. From here you can toggle mute on (NB: not big or red), cutting out the bings and bongs for a range of timeframes ranging from “friend-snubbing” 8 hours to an “OK, we’re done” full year.
7. Use WhatsApp on the big screen
Just because your boss gets a bit sniffy about having your phone out in the office, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on important WhatsApp messages (read inane, time-wasting chatter). The service can be switched to your desktop too.
Dedicated Windows and Mac OS WhatsApp apps have just launched, meaning you can seamlessly sync your smartphone-based chats to your primary computer and skive work without anyone suspecting a thing – bonus.
8. Stop dirty images showing in your camera roll
If you’re the sort of person who sends and receives images you’d rather your friends didn’t stumble across, you probably don’t want them saved just two swipes from last night’s party pics in your camera roll.
There’s an easy way to avoid accidental image embarrassment though. In Settings > Chats you can toggle the Save Incoming Media tab. Now you can share smutty snaps with little fear of reprise.
9. Save your data allowance from meme-spam
If you’ve been hitting it hard on the train-based Netflix sessions this month, you probably don’t want every cat snap or Game of Thrones meme you’re sent further eating up your data allowance. But you can save the megabytes by setting images and videos to download only when you’re connected to the Wi-Fi.
To enable these data-saving ways on iOS, all you need to do is go Settings > Data Usage where you’ll be able to assign download methods per content type. On Android things are a little different. You’re offered all the same options, but you’ll have to go Settings > Chats and Calls > Media Auto-Download to find them.
10. Turn your best mate into a WhatsApp-themed app
Find it hard to pick out your bezzie mates from your mass of WhatsApp chats? Well, there’s a great way to give people priority, although it’s one for just the Android folks – sorry Apple owners. You can cut down the search time by saving shortcuts to your favourite WhatsApp Chats direct to your handset homescreen.
A long press on the desired chat will launch a menu of options, including the ‘Add chat shortcut’ tab. And that’s it: you can now share your selfies and oddball chatter a fraction of a second quicker. It’s like having an app dedicated to your mate. Which isn’t creepy at all.
11. Hide incriminating chats from prying eyes
There are some instances where you might not want your partner seeing your WhatsApp messages popping up. Surprise party planning, for example. Or, erm… nope, that’s it, we can’t think of any more innocent reasons.
Keeping your secrets secret can be achieved by hiding your message previews though. This stops your lockscreen alerts teasing the potentially incriminating introduction to a message. ‘How?’ we hear you cry (with only a slight tinge of urgent panic). Just go Settings > Notifications > Show Preview, and your messages will be replaced by relationship-saving basic alerts.
12. Broadcast your private messages to the masses
Just because you want to send the same message to a number of people doesn’t mean you necessarily want to start a group chat where everyone can interact with each other and annoy you with endless message alerts. The solution is a ‘broadcast’.
Tapping the menu button reveals the ‘New broadcast’ option. This will send a single message to multiple recipients, creating an individual chat for each. You don’t even need to trouble yourself with endless cut and paste efforts either – it’s the modern equivalent of BCCing someone into an email.
13. Make it easy to switch phones with your messages in tow
Worried about losing your past year of mass messages? You don’t have to put off upgrading your handset – just take your chats with you. It’s not hard to do either. Both iPhone and Android owners have their own WhatsApp backup options thanks to iCloud and Google Drive syncing.
In Settings > Chats > Chat Backup, you can set your service to sync up with the cloud on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Now if your phone malfunctions or you move to a new handset, simply logging in to WhatsApp will bring all your past chats across.
14. Make important messages easy to locate
We’ve all been there – scrolling back through 268 messages trying to find an address or meet-up time. There is an easier way though – starring your standout messages for future finding. Similar to favouriting a tweet, WhatsApp messages can be starred simply be holding down on the desired correspondence and tapping the pop-up star icon.
You can then jump straight to a list of all your starred messages direct from your WhatsApp homescreen. Hours of endless scrolling begone.
15. See exactly when your message was read
There’s always one person in a group chat who fails to commit to the communal plans – you know who they are. You can chase them up though by seeing not only who has read the message, but exactly when they read them.
Long press on a message you’ve sent and hit the ‘info’ tab when it pops up. This will break down who has read and who has received the message, with timings for both handily displayed.
16. Maintain your privacy in unfriendly group chats
Check you out with your multiple friendship groups! Aren’t we the social butterfly? But while you’re strutting around like the big I am, think on: friends of friends you’ve never met – but share group chat standing with – are snooping on your innermost secrets. Or your personal details, at least.
While you’re never going to be able to hide your phone number (probably the biggest bit of data these people can see), you can limit access to your profile photo and personal status by heading to Settings > Account > Privacy and hitting the right sub-menus though.
17. Give yourself no excuse to not reply
OK, so you can’t handle replying right now, but you don’t want to be forced out of friendship by long-term blanking either. Hmmm, what to do? Well, you could simply set a visual reminder that you’ve got messages that need returning.
You can do this on your chat list, by swiping in from the left on your desired message thread. This will let you mark that conversation as unread. Now there’s no excuse for replying later.
18. Send a message with your voice
“Hey, Siri, stop being beyond useless.” Oh, you’ve listened, thanks. Having moved past its infuriating “sorry, I didn’t quite catch that roots,” Siri has added some impressive new smarts, and now plays nice with a number of third-party apps, including the likes of WhatsApp.
That means you can get your voice involved when you want to send a message. Now, instead of dictating your messages to be sent as out dated texts, Siri lets you read out your commands to WhatsApp and enjoy some impressive hands-free messaging. All you need to do, once you’ve ensured you’re running the latest version of WhatsApp, is bust out the correct vocal commands: “Hey, Siri. Send a WhatsApp to mum…”
19. Get Siri to read out your messages
Siri can also read your latest messages for you. Just say, “Hey Siri, read my last WhatsApp message” and he / she will give you an audio rendition of your most recent unreads. Just be sure that you’re not using this in the wrong place; people on the bus probably don’t want to hear about how much your Snugglywugs is looking forward to schmoozing with you tonight.
Unfortunately, the Google Assistant still isn’t capable of doing much with Whatsapp, so Pixel owners are out of luck.
20. Make a video call
Earlier this year, WhatsApp introduced video calling – because what’s a modern communication app without it? Getting in a video call with one of your contacts is as simple as opening up your conversation with them and then pressing the video call icon next to the phone icon.
21. Draw on photos or add emoji
Sure, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger reign supreme when it comes to adding that special something to photos with all their fancy filters and other gubbins, but WhatsApp can still add something special to your pics.
Once you’ve taken a photo in the app, you’ll see a series of editing tools at the top of the screen. Use these to add emoji, draw on the photo, or even add text.
22. Unsend messages
It’s been in development for months, but the new function, which is officially called ‘Delete for Everyone’, has now started rolling out to users of the most recent version of the app.
It will allow users to “recall”or “revoke” a message within seven minutes, provided that the recipient has not read the message yet and both of you are using the latest version of WhatsApp for iPhone, Windows Phone or Android.
In an FAQ explaining how to use the new feature, WhatsApp said: “This is particularly useful if you sent a message to the wrong chat or if the message you sent contains a mistake. Messages you successfully delete for everyone will be replaced with ‘This message was deleted’ in your recipients’ chats.
“Similarly, if you see ‘This message was deleted’ in a chat, it means that the sender deleted their message for everyone.”
To unsend a message, tap and hold the message you wish to recall, then choose ‘Delete’ from the menu then ‘Delete for Everyone’.