WhatsApp has long been one of the most popular messaging apps in the business, but a lot has changed since Facebook bought the company back in 2014. If you’re using WhatsApp to manage the bulk of your daily conversations, these 10 tips will help you get more out of the app — change its appearance, cut through the noise, protect your privacy, and more.
1. Customise conversation wallpaper
WhatsApp now lets you change your chat wallpaper per conversation, so you can have one backdrop for the thread with your colleagues and another for the chat with your family members. At the very least it should minimise the risk of you typing the wrong message in the wrong box. On Android, open up a chat, tap the three dots to the top right, then choose Wallpaper; on iOS, open up a chat, tap the bar at the top, and then Wallpaper & Sound.
2. Send disappearing messages
Since Snapchat started showing the world that we needed social media networks and communication tools that are a little less permanent, every app has jumped on board. In WhatsApp, you can set messages in individual chats to disappear after seven days by opening the relevant conversation, then tapping on the name at the top, then choosing Disappearing messages. Older messages that you’ve already sent won’t be affected by the change.
3. Turn to the dark side
Like many other apps, WhatsApp now comes with a comprehensive dark mode that you can deploy to give your eyes a rest in the evening. Tap the three dots (top right) then Settings on Android, then pick Chats and Theme (select System Default to have WhatsApp follow Android’s lead). On iPhones, dark mode is controlled by the master setting for iOS itself — open up the iOS Settings menu, then pick Display & Brightness.
4. Mute chats for the long term
You probably know that you can mute busy conversations on WhatsApp, but you might not know that the app recently added the option to mute certain chats permanently, so you need never hear from certain people or certain groups until you unmute them again. Tap the name or group name at the top of a conversation, then choose Mute notifications (Android) or Mute (iOS) to set your preference. Pick from 8 hours, 1 week, or Always.
5. Check up on storage use
WhatsApp can take up a big chunk of room on your phone if your friends are fond of forwarding lots of photos and videos, but there’s a dedicated tool for making sure this isn’t a problem. Open Settings (from the front screen in iOS, behind the three dot button on Android), then choose Storage and data and Manage storage. The next screen shows you how much room all your files are taking up, and lets you delete some of it, if necessary.
6. Add extra security
This one is for iPhones only: If you want to make extra sure that no one is snooping on your WhatsApp messages, you can require Touch ID or Face ID authentication to get into the app (as well as into your phone itself). To set it up, tap Settings from the main screen, then choose Account, Privacy, and Screen Lock — obviously the option you see next will depend on whether your iPhone model of choice supports Touch ID or Face ID for access.
7. Stay out of group chats
Sure, group chats have their uses, but you don’t necessarily want to be added to any of these conversations without your explicit permission. Tap the three dot button (top left) then Settings on Android, or Settings on iOS, then choose Account, Privacy, and Groups to set who can and can’t add you to a group automatically (you can still be invited to join groups). By using the My contacts except… option, you can keep the list very short.
8. Get WhatsApp on the desktop
You can run WhatsApp through your web browser here, and on the desktop by installing the Windows or macOS client from here. It certainly makes it much easier to type out longer messages, and you can of course access all the images and videos on your computer for easier sending. There’s barely any difference between the desktop and the web versions, so you can use whichever one is more convenient for computer access.
9. Configure custom notifications
If you’re a heavy WhatsApp user then it can help to set up custom notifications for particular chats and contacts, so that when your phone rings with a new alert you know whether it’s likely to be urgent or not. You can do this on both Android and iOS by tapping the contact or group chat name at the top of a conversation, then choosing Custom notifications on Android or Custom Tone on iOS (Android gives you far more options)
10. Back up to Google Drive or iCloud
WhatsApp includes a robust backup system that lets you save chats to either Google Drive or iCloud, which makes it a lot easier to pick up conversations again when you get a shiny new phone. On Android, tap the three dots (top right), then Settings, Chats, and Chat backup; on iOS, just tap Settings, Chats, and Chat Backup from the front screen. Note that these cloud backups won’t be protected by WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption.