There are over a billion WhatsApp users worldwide right now. The bad news? Your mom has already found her new favourite way to spam you. The good news? You can easily avoid her on the down-low, and that’s just one of the messaging service’s many secret tips you probably don’t know about.
From disabling its ‘last seen’ feature to bookmarking messages you don’t want to forget about, there are loads of tricks to make your favourite IM app more useful than ever. You just have to be in the know.
Luckily enough, we’ve scoured every inch of WhatsApp to gather up its most useful features. Read these top tips and you’ll be a pro in no time at all.
1. Begone, blue ticks of misery
Clearly, you’ve not got time to respond immediately. But at the same time, you don’t want the sender to realise that you’ve already looked at the message, lest they think you’re ignoring them when you fail to reply for two more hours. That’s the privilege the blue ticks take away.
Recently though, the chat app has realised the error of its ways and silently come up with a workaround. The liberty of message-mulling is ours again.
How: Users can just access Privacy via Settings and disable Read Receipts. There, now it’s time to iron out the kinks in your friendships that the blue ticks have caused.
2. Figure out your BFFs
What’s the difference between a casual acquaintance and a best mate for life? How often you message them on WhatsApp, of course. If you’re not sure how to divide up the members of your social circle, then why not check how often you’ve messaged them.
How: Head to Settings > Data and Storage Usage > Storage Usage and you’ll see a list of your most important groups and contacts ranked according to the data you’ve expended on their behalves. Ah, the romance of modern living.
3. See when your messages are read
In addition to finding out the exact time your messages are delivered, you can also choose to see the exact time your message was read (assuming you choose to stick with the ticks).
How: Go to any of your WhatsApp chats, tap and hold on any of the messages you’ve sent in that chat, followed by the Info option. For iOS users, you can also drag towards the left to reveal a window which will show the time your message was delivered and subsequently read.
It works for group messages too, with the window listing the time each participant read the message.
4. Hide your profile pic
Batman. David Bowie. Pepe the Prawn. All people who have built their much-vaunted careers on an air of mystique and otherness. You can bet they’d have their WhatsApp profile pics set to private, instead of treating the world to a bedraggled photo of them and a bottle of Smirnoff Ice. So, as the saying goes, always be yourself unless you can be like Batman.
How: Head to Settings > Privacy > Profile Photo > Nobody.
5. Mute group chats
We’re all in at least a few group chats at any one time, created because someone (likely the group admin) was bored. People tend to get overzealous in chats, especially since WhatsApp allows group conversations of up to 50 participants. Who hasn’t woken up to the horror of 100+ unread messages fuelled by a night of boredom?
How: To prevent yourself from being woken up by the constant lighting up of your smartphone screen, you can (a) either flip your phone over and ignore it or (b) mute the offending group chat. Tap on the group chat of your choice, then the name to bring up Group Info where you will find the option to Mute the chat for eight hours to one week or a year. Alternatively, you can exit it altogether.
6. Get shortcuts to conversations
How: Tap and hold on the chat (group or individual) of your choice and a tab will pop up. Select the Add Conversation Shortcut option and the chat in question will appear as the person’s profile photo on your mobile desktop. Unfortunately this only applies for Android users and not iPhone ones. Sorry guys.
7. Find out the truth about where your friend is
We’ve all been a victim of that “on the way” lie when the person in question is still in bed. To prevent yourself from ever getting duped again, insist that the contact shares their current location with you by tapping on the arrow icon next to the text box and then Share Location. There’s also a way of preventing them from manually entering their location…
How: The way the location appears is a clue. If it’s a real GPS-based location, the location share will appear as a dropped pin, but if it’s a location they entered, its address will appear beside the dropped pin. Feel free to call them out on it.
8. Go incognito by switching off ‘last seen’
‘Why are they online and not replying to you right now? Do they have someone more important to be talking to? Surely it’s not Joel? That devilish son of a gun.’
If you’d rather your people didn’t think this way of you, there’s an easy ‘get out of jail’ card to be deployed. Just turn off the ‘last seen’ feature altogether, or restrict it to only your contacts.
How: Head to Settings > Privacy > Last Seen > Nobody.
9. Send messages hands-free with Siri
Ugh! Typing is a pain when you want to use your hands for other stuff such as eating, cooking or fine embroidery. Once again WhatsApp has come to the rescue to this most first-world of problems via compatibility with both Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant. So you can now dictate any missives to your phone instead of punching them in with your digits like a total chump.
How: Shout out ‘Hey Siri’ or ‘OK Google’, then name the contact you want to send a message to and the contents of that message.
10. Send public messages privately
If you’ve got a generic announcement to make – an invite to a weekend braai or an intervention about your friend’s unhealthy obsession with KFC – and you don’t want to do it on the loudmouth platform that is Facebook, this feature works in pretty much the same way as BCC-ing people in an email.
Your recipients will get the message as if it was a privately composed one, oblivious to the fact that you’ve sent the exact same invite to 342 other people. Sincerity? What’s that?
How: On the top-left-hand corner of your WhatsApp Chats window, just below the search bar, you’ll notice a Broadcast Lists. Tap on it for the option to create a new list of contacts you want your message to go out to, and message away like you would normally.
11. Stay selectively notified
Not all group chats are created equal, as some are filled with nothing but white noise. And it’s exactly those group chats you want to ignore until you get some downtime to sieve through everything that’s been said. On the flipside, there are the group chats you want to stay on top of, such as the ones deciding dinner plans for the night and so on. Here’s how you can stay selectively notified.
How: Go to the significant group chats, tap on the name to bring up Group Info and then Custom Notifications. There, you can select a custom message alert for the group chats of your choice. All you have to do now is remember which alert tone you assigned to which group chat. This customisation is only applicable for group chats though.
12. Back it up
How: iPhone users get the option of backing their chat history to iCloud automatically on a daily/weekly/monthly schedule. If it’s only selected chat histories you desire, click on the chat you want, then the user’s name and finally email conversation to yourself.
Android users can go to ‘Settings’, ‘Chats and calls’, and select the ‘Chat backup’ option, which will let you setup an automatic Google Drive backup. The next time you install WhatsApp from fresh on any device, you can simply select the Google Drive backup option at the setup screen, to have all your up-to-date messages injected into your device, straight from the cloud.
13. Save your media (and data)
When you’re on a 1GB data plan, every MB counts. You don’t want to be slapped with a hefty bill at the end of the month from sending stupid shareable memes and screenshots of every little thing. There’s a way to make sure that all that heavy-duty image sending won’t eat up what little complimentary data you might have in your plan.
How: Go to Settings, then Chat Settings and then Auto-Download and tweak the settings for how you want your received media to be downloaded. Choose Wi-Fi if you don’t want to overload your data plan. Alternatively, you can trigger downloads manually by switching Auto-Download to Never. You can also save the hassle of having to clean up your camera roll every so often by tweaking Save Incoming Media off.
14. Tie the app to your number
If you’re overseas and you get a new data sim, there’s no need to go through the hassle of registering the new number attached to the SIM and fiddle around adding contacts. Just carry on using WhatsApp with your regular number.
How: When you put your new SIM in and activate WhatsApp, you’ll be prompted by the messaging service to register the new number. But doing so will mess up your contacts list. Just ignore the pop-up or cancel it, and your WhatsApp should work linked to your old number, while using your new data SIM.
15. Star messages
When dinner time rolls around, the last thing you want to do is scroll through 352 frivolous messages to find the address of the restaurant you’re meeting your friends at. Luckily WhatsApp lets you bookmark certain messages for easy access.
How: Double tap on any message and tap on the star icon to mark it. To find it again, all you have to do is tap on the chat’s name, and tap on Starred Messages to see all the messages you’ve marked out.
To see conversation context, just tap on the arrow next to it and you’ll be brought back to the exact place in the chat. When you’re done with it, just double tap the message, and hit the star icon again to unstar it. It’s only available for iOS users for now, so fandroids, wait your turn.
16. Make calls
How: Make sure you’re using the latest version of WhatsApp. You should see a new Calls tab alongside the usual Chats and Contacts. Just send a voice call invite to another WhatsApp user and you’ll be chatting away in no time.
17. Instantly add dates to your calendar
It’s easy to forget appointments when you’re a busy bee. You make vague plans for drinks, settle on a date, then promptly forget about it as the conversation rolls on. This handy little shortcut makes sure you commit to an appointment.
How: Just state a date and you get an automatic link to add it to your calendar. It also recognises words like ‘today’, ‘tomorrow’ and days. But it’s still best to use specific dates, just in case you get the day wrong. No more excuses for forgetting drink dates anymore, then. At least, not for iOS users. Android users have to wait a little while longer we’re afraid.
18. Use Whatsapp on the web
How: To enable inconspicuous chatting on the web while you do your work, all you have to do is go to Settings and tap on WhatsApp Web. Then head to web.whatsapp.com on your computer and scan the QR code that appears using your phone. Commence chatting on the sly without downloading anything. Handy, and also very, very distracting.
19. Save data on calls
How: Pop into Settings then Chats and Calls. Right at the bottom, you’ll find Low Data Usage. Turn that on to decrease the amount of data used during calls made via WhatsApp. We’d still advise using WhatsApp calls sparingly on data if you’re on a limited data plan, but you can still save on calls when connected to Wi-Fi abroad.
20. Locate group chat
You can find old group chats by searching for individual members that were in the chat group, rather than the group name itself. This is useful for when you want to revisit old topics, as chances are you’ll remember who was in the chat, more than the hilarious banter-laden group name that seemed so funny at the time.
How: Just tap on any individual chats, and tap their name for more information. From there you’ll be able to see all the groups you have in common with said individual, even if they go way back.
21. Back up everything including video
How: Get into Settings, then Chats and Calls, and pop into Chat Backup. This is the control centre for backing up your wordy memories.
You can choose when you want Auto Backup to happen (but make sure you disable backing up using data within your phone’s settings or there will be hell to pay). You can also choose to include videos in your backup by toggling Include Videos. Would it be greedy of us to ask for voice messages to be included in the next update too?
22. Visual reminders
Have the habit of reading messages then forgetting to reply to them? Now you have no excuse to neglect them as there’s a new Mark as unread feature which lets you mark chats with a blue dot so that you can come back to them later.
How: Just swipe any of your chats to the right and the option to Mark as unread will show up. Tap on it and a blue dot will appear on the chat as a visual marker. Once you’re done with it, just swipe the chat to the right to unmark it. Simple.
P.S. Android users can achieve the same thing by long-pressing on a chat.
23. Stop people from accidentally reading your messages
Theoretically, all messages on WhatsApp are private – but not when you leave your phone on the table, and a new message notification pops up. How many times have you unintentionally read someone’s message just because you’ve curiously looked over when their phone screen blinked to life with a new message notification? Admit it, we’ve all done it, and sometimes read something we’ve regretted.
How: Go to Settings, then Notifications, and disable Show Preview. Now you can gossip in peace, without anyone accidentally reading your conversations by glancing casually at your phone when a notification comes in. Your notification still reveals who has just messaged you, without divulging any of its super secret contents.
24. Reply directly from a popup
How: Go to Settings, Notifications, then Popup Notification, and choose from four different options. You can change this setting for both individual messages and group messages respectively. Unfortunately, this feature is only available for Android. For now, anyway.
25. Send an attachment
Unlike EPMD’s hip-hop classic, WhatsApp’s ethos is by no means Strictly Business. If you do need to quickly send a document to a colleague, and email isn’t an option, it’s easily done. Just select the file you want from Google Drive, Dropbox or iCloud and WhatsApp will fling it onwards as a pdf.
How: Tap the + symbol > Document > select your cloud storage service of choice and then the file itself. Done.