WhatsApp launches big linked device change — but there’s a catch

WhatsApp is rolling out its anticipated multi-device feature to all users, enabling them to link up to four devices to use the messaging platform even when their phones lack a data connection.

The process to link devices to a WhatsApp account is relatively straightforward, but there are several limitations when using the messaging platform on a linked device.

The Facebook-owned service updated its FAQ page to reflect the changes.

Most notably, while the messaging platform does not require your phone to be online to use the multi-device feature, WhatsApp will disconnect your linked devices if your phone remains inactive for 14 days.

This will require the user to relink their devices from the WhatsApp application on their phone.

WhatsApp also listed several features that aren’t supported on linked devices.

Firstly, WhatsApp has indicated that iPhone users won’t be able to clear or delete messages from their linked devices. This will have to be done from the iPhone itself.

It also said that linked devices cannot view live locations or create and view broadcast lists.

Linked devices may also run into problems when trying to call or message users on “very old versions of WhatsApp”.

Lastly, WhatsApp said that its link preview feature is not supported on linked devices.

The Facebook-owned messaging company began beta testing the multi-device feature in November 2021, and it was initially limited to certain users, regions, and devices.

The process to link devices to your WhatsApp account on Android and iOS

WhatsApp has offered the ability to use its messaging platform on non-phone devices for some time now. However, it required a smartphone to be linked with an active Internet connection.

The phone acts as the “source of truth” for all user data, meaning the app effectively only mirror the phone’s content.

This meant that, in the past, the platform ceased to function on non-phone devices when the phone was turned off or lost Internet connectivity.

The new multi-device architecture removes the requirement of the smartphone app to act as the “source of truth” to use WhatsApp.

WhatsApp had to rework the architecture to guarantee that messages would remain end-to-end encrypted to make this possible.

Before multi-device support, WhatsApp assigned accounts an identity in the form of a single key from which it derived all encrypted communication keys.

With multi-device, each device now has its own identity key.

“The WhatsApp server maintains a mapping between each person’s account and all their device identities,” WhatsApp said.

“When someone wants to send a message, they get their device list keys from the server.”

“Each message is individually encrypted using the established pairwise encryption session with each device. Messages are not stored on the server after they are delivered,” it added.

This guarantees that WhatsApp maintains the “same level of privacy and security” through end-to-end encryption.

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WhatsApp launches big linked device change — but there’s a catch