WhatsApp is rolling out a new voice chat feature in the coming weeks that’s designed to be a less disruptive way to conduct voice calls in large groups. The feature was previously spotted releasing in beta, but WhatsApp has now made the news official.
Although it’s long been possible to voice call on WhatsApp with up to 32 participants, the new voice chat feature works a little differently. Group participants won’t be rung automatically when a voice chat starts; instead, they’ll receive a push notification, and there’ll be an in-chat bubble they can tap to join.
Once a voice chat is underway, call controls will be accessible from the top of a chat without obscuring a participant’s ability to send text messages at the same time. Like other personal WhatsApp messages, voice chats are end-to-end encrypted and can be joined by up to 32 participants.
Voice chats will be rolling out on iOS and Android in the coming weeks. The rollout will begin with larger group chats with between 33 and 128 participants, per WhatsApp’s page about the feature, so not everyone in a given group will be able to join a voice chat at once. Presumably, groups with fewer than 33 users haven’t been prioritized because they can use WhatsApp’s existing group voice calls feature.