Privacy controversies aside, WhatsApp is one of the most popular and useful apps in the world. The app supports the same rich instant messaging experience you’d get in iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram, and it handles voice and video calls. Unlike Facebook Messenger, it comes with the same strong end-to-end encryption as iMessage and Signal. And unlike iMessage, it works on iPhone and Android. It is no wonder that Facebook paid nearly $20 billion many years ago on an app that bridges chat communications between platforms securely.
A new leak from WABetaInfo tells us that Facebook is testing a chat migration feature that would let users move their chats from iPhone to Android and vice-versa. WhatsApp already offers chat backup features, so carrying a WhatsApp account over to iPhone or Android shouldn’t be a problem. The new chat migration feature is meant to support a different WhatsApp feature, the highly anticipated multi-device experience that WhatsApp users have been craving for.
As it is now, WhatsApp is tied to the user’s phone number, which is a great security feature. But it makes it impossible for a person to operate the same account on iPhone, iPad, Android, and PC. There is a desktop app version of WhatsApp that brings the app to Windows or Mac, but that trick doesn’t work on Android and iPhone.
The new chat migration tool will allow users to sync multiple devices under the same WhatsApp account, and the only way to do it should be an official feature in the official app. WhatsApp makes a note in its FAQ sections that third-party apps that offer users ways to migrate their chat histories violate the company’s terms of service. WhatsApp doesn’t support those apps, as it can’t validate their security practices.
It’s unclear how the official chat migration feature would work, and there’s no demo available. But WABetaInfo did release the user interface image above that shows what migrating chats would look like on iPhone. The app invites users to update the app to WhatsApp’s latest version before transferring the chat history to an Android device. Presumably, similar screens would appear when attempting to transfer chat history from Android to an iPhone or iPad.
It’s unclear how the multi-device WhatsApp experience would look like or when it’ll be rolled out. But the discovery of this official chat migration tool indicates that WhatsApp is getting closer to that moment.
As for the recent WhatsApp privacy controversy, Facebook plans to make it possible for companies to offer customer support over WhatsApp. The user data collection will impact that sort of functionality. WhatsApp will continue to remain end-to-end encrypted, both when it comes to chats and calls. Users who want to ditch WhatsApp can use a different chat migration tool to move everything to Telegram. This popular app, however, doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption by default. Signal is another potential WhatsApp replacement, and Signal supports end-to-end encryption.