WhatsApp group calling tested

The WhatsApp group calls and group video calls update is rolling out to users across the world, following the company announcing the new feature two weeks back.

The company said the group calling feature is rolling out to the iPhone and Android versions of WhatsApp, and up to four people may participate in a group call.

Following its release, iOS and Android devices in South Africa have received the update – allowing users to make group calls.

To see how the feature works, we put it to the test in the MyBroadband office.


Group calls

The group call function on WhatsApp can be accessed once you start a call with a contact.

You first select a single contact and call them in WhatsApp. Once you have established a call with this contact, an “add contacts” icon at the top right of your app screen is bolded (shown in the image below, centred in the red square).

Users then click this icon to add new call participants from their contact list.

Once you reach four users on the call – the primary user and three added contacts – the “add contacts” icon is greyed-out, preventing you from adding more people to the voice call.

WhatsApp then shows you who is on the group call by displaying their profile pictures on the call screen.

The group voice call worked as advertised when we tested it, with all participants able to hear and talk to one another. Calls between Android and iOS devices also worked without a hitch.

Naturally, when multiple users spoke at the same time, it was difficult to hear what individual callers were saying.

WhatsApp Call Test
WhatsApp group call on iOS.
WhatsApp Call
WhatsApp group call on Android and iOS.

Video calls

Video calls work in the same way as the group voice calls, with the addition of a video feed from each user.

As shown in the image below, each of the four users is allocated a quarter of the video calling screen once they have been added to the group call and answered.

While the resolutions of the video feeds were not super-crisp when tested in the office – all devices connected via Wi-Fi to at least a 10Mbps line – the participants were identifiable and the voice quality was good enough for us to hear each other.

The need to hold you phone up in a “selfie” position to ensure you stay in the video frame, however, is not comfortable for extended periods.

WhatsApp Call


Encryption

As with all WhatsApp communications, the company said group calls are encrypted end-to-end.

It added that the feature is also designed to work on low-bandwidth networks, which means even a slow mobile connection should be good enough to ensure group voice calling works as intended.

The rollout of WhatsApp group calls takes places in the same week that Apple stated FaceTime group calls will not launch with iOS 12.

When Apple unveiled iOS 12, it punted FaceTime group calls as one of the new features – with calls supporting up to 32 simultaneous users.


Now read: Still no court date for new out-of-bundle data rules

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WhatsApp group calling tested