WhatsApp fixes considered one of its most annoying options

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Any WhatsApp user can tell you that one of their biggest frustrations with the app is that it is tied to your phone. Until now, every time you set up a WhatsApp account, even if it’s on a desktop or iPad, you’re essentially still routing everything through your phone, so you can’t run multiple independent secondary devices.

That changes with WhatsApp’s new public beta. The rollout is limited, but it brings the multi-device capability to the table, so you can use WhatsApp on your phone and up to four other non-phone devices at the same time. And most importantly – this will work even if your phone’s battery is dead because each device is independently connected to WhatsApp. This allows you to make a video call on one device while still browsing on your phone or checking your messages on a PC.

Facebook engineering blog

But the real technical wizardry is in how WhatsApp approached the security issues that come with launching multiple devices. One of WhatsApp’s big selling points along with others like Signal and Telegram is its full end-to-end encryption. Like the other services, WhatsApp previously worked with a single identity key for all encrypted communication.

The introduction of multiple devices makes this difficult, but WhatsApp has come up with a clever way to fix this by introducing identity keys for each device. A combination of advanced security codes and automatic device verification means that devices can automatically trust each other. So you only need to compare security codes when re-registering the entire account instead of just linking a new device to the account.

WhatsApp encryption with new functions for multiple devices.Facebook engineering blog

The picture (above) highlights the changes in the privacy of messages. Each message is individually encrypted and messages are not stored on the server after delivery. While these changes are welcome, they lag behind Telegram, which allows you to use the app on all of your devices at the same time and seamlessly syncs messages across any number of phones, tablets and computers.

WhatsApp only works with up to four non-phone devices, but it’s still a big step in fixing one of people’s biggest complaints about the app. This feature will be tested for the time being with a small group of users from WhatsApp’s existing beta program before it is rolled out more slowly for everyone else.

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