Being able to stay in touch while social distancing is really important, which is why we’ve come to rely on apps that help you make group calls. WhatsApp, which sends messages over the internet rather than SMS, has become a popular alternative to texting, but it also lets you make calls. On WhatsApp, you can do an audio-only or video group call with up to eight people. WhatsApp is a good alternative to Zoom for smaller groups as it uses end-to-end encryption (unlike Zoom).
WhatsApp is available for both iOS and Android, so you can easily chat with or call people even if you don’t all have the same kind of phone. While you can access WhatsApp from your browser or download the desktop version of the app, you can only make and answer calls on mobile. You will need to set up an account on the app (and if you’re smart, secure it properly) in order to use it.
One of the drawbacks of group calls on WhatsApp is that you can’t switch a group call between audio-only and video once you start the call. To switch, you’ll have to hang up and start the call again.
While the interface looks a little different on Android than it does on iOS, the basic steps for making group calls are the same. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make group calls on WhatsApp:
From the “Calls” section:
- Go to “Calls” by clicking on the phone button at the bottom of the screen.
- Tap the button with a phone and a plus sign in the top right corner of the screen.
- Click on “New Group Call.”
- This will open up a list of your contacts. You can search through them by typing in the names of the people you want to add into the search bar at the top. Add people to the call by clicking on the circles next to their names.
- Tap the phone button to start an audio call or the video button to start a video call.
From a group chat:
- Click “Chats” on the bottom of your screen and then select a group conversation to open it.
- If your group chat has four people or fewer in total, you’ll see a video icon and phone icon (without a plus sign) in the top right corner. Tapping either of those buttons will start a call with everyone in the chat automatically.
- If the group chat has more than four people, you’ll need to select who to add to the call. Click on the button that has a phone and a plus sign in the top right corner. The names of the members of the group chat will pop up. Select who to add to the call by tapping the circles next to their names.
- Tap the video button to start a video call or the phone button to start an audio call.
You can also add more people to a one-on-one call. Here’s how:
- Tap “Chats” toward the bottom right corner of your screen and then click on a conversation to open it.
- Tap the phone button in the top right corner to start an audio call or the video button to start a video call.
- After the person you called has picked up, click on the button with a person and a plus sign in the top right corner to add people to the call.
- This will pull up a list of your contacts. To find someone quickly, type the name of who you want to add to the call into the search bar at the top, which will filter the list of contacts. Click on the name of the person you want to add.
- You may also get a pop-up window asking if you want to add that person to a group call. Tap “Add” to let them join the call.
Update April 13th, 9:57AM ET: This article has been updated to include that WhatsApp is rolling out a feature that will let users place calls directly from group conversations.
Update April 29th, 5:17PM ET: This article has been updated to reflect WhatsApp has increased the limit on group calls from four to eight, and the instructions have been edited to incorporate WhatsApp’s previous update that lets users place calls directly from group conversations.
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