Instant Messaging app WhatsApp is working on a new ‘Audio Chats’ feature for Android and could release it in a future update. The new feature was spotted during the beta tests of the 126.96.36.199 version of the app. While there’s not much known about this new feature yet, it seems to be WhatsApp’s version of Twitter Spaces.
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How are WhatsApp ‘Audio Chats’ different from voice calls?
In the recently surfaced screenshots, the waveform icon for audio chats finds its way to the chat header, right next to the video call icon. Tapping on the waveform icon reveals the option to call the group or open the ‘audio chat’. Another screenshot shows the ‘end call’ icon on top of the chat header. There is some free space on the left side of the icon and will likely be filled out with some graphics. It is believed that this could the audio chat toolbar, where a live waveform would be visible during an ongoing audio chat. Users will be able to browse the app while the toolbar stays fixed on top of the screen.
So how are audio chats different from regular voice calling on WhatsApp? While a voice call makes every single group member an active call participant, audio chats will allow group members to listen to a conversation without joining it. Listeners will be able to drop in and out of the conversation at any time. This is similar to how Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse work. Unlike a regular group voice call, you won’t receive a constant ringing notification for an audio chat.
As of now, the feature seems to be in its early stages of development. It is evident from the screenshots that the UI isn’t close to being finished. The toolbar still needs some additions and WhatsApp may even reposition certain functions on the chat header. It is also possible that this feature may not see an official release. WhatsApp could very well scrap it in the beta testing phase.
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While there is a lot of speculation around this new feature, it makes sense to integrate it with the Communities section that was introduced recently by WhatsApp. While voice calls will remain the staple form of audio conversations among small groups, audio chats will cater to large communities where moderating a group voice call can prove to be a tedious effort.
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