New WhatsApp beta includes a 'channels' feature. Here's how it works

Meta is looking for ways to make WhatsApp more palatable to American audiences. Maybe this is how.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
WhatsApp open on phone with logo in background
NurPhoto/Contributor/Getty Images

The latest iOS WhatsApp beta build includes a new feature allowing one-to-many message broadcasting. This report suggests that WhatsApp is reworking the "Status" tab to become "Updates," where users can see statuses and channel messages.

The latest WhatsApp beta build for iOS will receive a "channels" feature, where users can follow channels and view messages broadcasted to multiple people simultaneously, similar to the "Channels" feature on Telegram

Also: Can someone tell if I block their number?

WhatsApp channels will be a private tool, so users' phone numbers and information remain confidential. The messages within a WhatsApp channel will not be end-to-end encrypted, and users will not be auto-subscribed to WhatsApp channels.

WhatsApp channels will be similar to one-way newsletters, and users won't be able to reply to the messages released on these channels. Also, users will not be able to see which channels other users are subscribing to. 

Channels will allow users to receive direct messages about specific topics they are interested in or to keep up with creators on the app they want to receive updates about. Although WhatsApp is mostly used for its private messaging features, it seems that Meta wants to increase engagement within WhatsApp.

Also: How to transfer your WhatsApp account from Android to iPhone

For now, WhatsApp channels is still in development for Android but has made it to the TestFlight app for iOS

In previous years, WhatsApp wasn't too popular with U.S. users. But as the pandemic pushed us to conduct more of our socializing online, people are interested in using a messaging app with more privacy and community, according to Meta's head of WhatsApp, Will Cathcart.

WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption in its private messaging, something that's unavailable when someone with an iPhone sends a message to someone with an Android. Because iPhones compress messages into SMS when texting an Android phone, the messages between these two phones are not secure and can be accessed by a third party.

Also: The best encrypted messaging apps

Because WhatsApp is a messaging app, it's easy to contact people in another country, which can get very pricey when conducted through your cell phone carrier. 

Editorial standards