WhatsApp’s new India-specific feature spotted in Google Play Beta

NEW DELHI: Day after the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) on WhatsApp was spotted in the Google Play Beta Programme, a top WhatsApp executive says the mobile messaging app is excited about the government’s digitization drive and the future projects in the country.

8 ‘rival features’ you may want to ditch WhatsApp for

In the last few years, WhatsApp has become the de facto mode of communication for most of us? Family, workplace and friends, WhatsApp keeps us ‘connected’ with all. But, there are still some features that the world’s top messaging app lacks — features that it rivals boast of. Here are 8 features missing in WhatsApp that you may find in its rivals.

Stickers

Words are slowly being replaced by emoticons. Why type “this is so funny” when you can use a “smiley” emoticon, right? Emoticons, however, aren’t being replaced by stickers though they might be feeling the pressure from stickers. Stickers have become an essential part of most messaging apps available. It does come as a surprise that this feature remains missing from arguably one of the most popular app – Whatsapp. Other popular apps, including, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Hike and others offer a sea of stickers to the users to make conversations more interesting.

GIF Selfie

It’s not “breaking news” that selfies are quite the rage. So much so that smartphones are being sold on the selfie proposition. Google, in fact, went one step ahead and introduced a GIF selfie feature in its messaging app Allo. WhatsApp so far hasn’t caught on to the selfie GIF bug. The new selfie GIFs enable users to create GIFs by shooting short videos with the selfie cameras of their smartphones. It is an in-app feature and doesn’t require any third-party tools to work.

Private chats

Of course, there are a few chats or conversations which you would like to keep private – from one and all. Perhaps a reason why several messaging apps come with Incognito or Private chat mode. The mode allows you to keep the chat safe and private, and once read the messages automatically get deleted from the app. The users can also set a timer after which the chat will be erased. Apps like Line, WeChat, Google Allo offer this feature. WhatsApp users, we are sure, are waiting with bated breath for the feature to make an appearance on the app.

Poke feature

Do people still “poke each other”? Apparently, they do as most other popular messaging apps seem to have the feature. This feature is used to draw the attention of people you are chatting with. All one needs to do is double tap on the chat area and their friends’ phone would vibrate and a hand icon would appear in the chat area.

In-app wallet

WhatsApp is still in the planning phase with its in-app wallet, but Hike Messenger has already introduced the same last month. The wallet service launched by Hike is based on government-backed unified payments interface (UPI). The wallet can be used to do free and instant bank-to-bank transfers to other mobile users, including even those who are not on Hike messenger.

Live filters

Live filters became immensely popular with Snapchat and later Facebook-owned Instagram too introduced this feature in May. While WhatsApp now allows you to edit images by doodling on pictures, and adding text and emoticons on them before sending, the Live filters has still not made its way to the instant messaging app. Back in February, WhatsApp brought the ‘Status’ feature to its app, like Snapchat’s stories.

Auto reply option

The auto reply feature really comes in handy when you are in a rush and have no time to type complete sentences. The feature present in apps such as Facebook Messenger, Google Allo, is liked by many. If, and when, a friend sends you a question, then the app automatically generates a reply for it. The users can then click on the message which will be then sent to their friend.

Sharing files up to 1GB

While an app like Line lets you share over 1GB of data, WhatsApp in its latest update lets you share 100MB of data on Android and 120MB data on iOS device. Earlier, users were restricted to sharing only PDF file formats but now it is letting users share any type of document attachments. With all the updates that WhatsApp is getting, this feature should hopefully come soon too.

Without delving into the details about when the instant money transfer gateway would finally be introduced in India which has over 200 million WhatsApp monthly active users (MAUs), Alan Kao, Software Engineer at Facebook-owned platform, told IANS: “We are very excited about the digitisation of India and the projects in the future”.Launched by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), UPI facilitates the instant fund transfer between two bank accounts on the mobile platform.

WhatsApp has been in the news for working towards a UPI-based interface in its platform. According to media reports, the leading messaging platform is already in talks with the NPCI and a few banks to facilitate financial transactions via UPI.

Some mobile messaging platforms like WeChat and Hike Messenger already support UPI-based payment services. According to the blog website “WABetaInfo”, WhatsApp is giving shape to its plans towards bank-to-bank transfer using the UPI system.

When asked about how safe is end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp, Kao said the messaging app is secure and encryption is by “default” for all its over one billion users globally.

The company stressed it has been constantly working to maintain the privacy and security of its users. “We take down third-party apps that claim to be applications somehow linked to WhatsApp. We take them down because it compromises the security of the user,” the executive said during a media interaction here.

The company also recommended users not to install or use applications that can compromise security. WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption was implemented with help from ‘Open Whisper Systems’ which is the maker of secure messaging application “Signal”. “We have worked with ‘Open Whisper System Signal’ protocol for almost two years to bring end-to-end encryption,” Kao noted. Giving details on how the end-to-end encryption works, Kao said: “Once the message is sent, while it is still in transit, nobody can read that message.”

The company, however, said that it is important for users to install only trusted applications because the keyboard application (in this specific case) can collect information if it does not come from a trusted source. WhatsApp released end-to-end encryption for messages in 2016 and later expanded it to voice as well as video calling features.

“This is the largest-ever deployment of end-to-end encryption in history and this has been a big step up for free speech,” Kao added.

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