For the past few weeks the social media world has been buzzing with the news WhatsApp is about to add video calling.
Actually, it sort of already has added video calling. Kinda. Anyone signed up as a Beta Tester can currently make video calls to other such early adopters on Windows, Android, and most recently, iOS phones.
The news will no doubt excite a few, but it is a long time coming. Stablemate Facebook Messenger added video calling in mid-2015, Google has gone through several video services over recent years, finally settling on Duo, and Microsoft has had video calling for so long “Skype” is now synonymous with the feature.
Even if it will actually excite more than just “a few” (which it may, seeing as WhatsApp announced in February it had reached 1 billion downloads) it is more a case of catching up with current tech than announcing the arrival of anything particularly new.
Get Buggy with WhatsApp Video Calls
It is always exciting when your favorite team lands a big name free agent. Even if that player has been around for a while and played on a few other teams, it still brings hope that your sporting life is about to improve.
No doubt such is the feeling here for WhatsApp fans, who’ve had to switch to rival services for their video calling needs up until now.
Although, there’s no official announcement from management to stoke the fans’ enthusiasm with the video calling arrival, so maybe the free agent analogy isn’t quite so apt.
Instead, there’s just been a steady stream of users giddily reporting the feature has discreetly appeared on their phones.
Since it’s still in Beta, we’re expecting it to be as buggy as a camping trip to begin, and there’s no telling how long it’ll be before everything is ready for a commercial launch.
Furthermore, there’s no telling what the final product will feature, exactly–but let’s hope the WhatsApp team have learned a thing or two from the success and failures of their established peers.
Can WhatsApp Deliver Something New?
The most encouraging sign for WhatsApp is the deployment across smartphone platforms. It’d be pretty short-sighted not to make calling possible across models given the current messaging abilities, but you never can be sure. Apple STILL won’t let FaceTime play with the others.
No one knows yet whether What’sApp video calling will be available to groups. The current chat format comfortably handles a crowd, but similar services like Google’s Duo and Facebook’s Messenger don’t, so that’s going to be a bit of a nervous wait for fans.
Anything beyond those basic functions would be a bit of surprise though, to be honest.
Recently smartphone video calling has been focused on getting the bare bones right. There are plenty of avatars and games around–Facebook Messenger is even getting in on the act–but as a general rule the mobile versions of major VC services tend to miss out on the best toys. Skype, for instance, has yet to fit its unique live language translator into its smartphone offering.
But maybe WhatsApp will be different?
WhatsApp Is Playing Catch-Up
In keeping with its penchant for sending short videos over its messaging service, it would be nice to see WhatsApp video calling include video recording. It would be even nicer to see it offer filters and the ability to record specific portions of your screen, much like Camtasia and Active Presenter currently do for desktops.
Perhaps the service will bring us something new, like making use of the front and rear cameras on our phones to blend images and let us get creative with the backgrounds that surround our chatting faces.
Bottom line though, this feels more like WhatsApp is playing catch-up, rather than trying to redefine smartphone video calling.
When you have the attention of one in every seven people on Earth there’s really no need to go putting your operation at risk by introducing a potentially buggy, weighty new service.
I expect we will see a clean, basic service, with a few stickers and masks thrown in, and a high standard of security, such as has become crucial for a piece of tech that already prides itself on letting you share your most intimate snaps and chats.
In our opinion–it’s unlikely to change your life, unless your life is WhatsApp.