In April 2020, we reported that WhatsApp was working on a cross-device feature that would finally allow you to use your account on, well, multiple devices. The reason it took over a year to appear is that WhatsApp had to rethink how it works in order to maintain end-to-end encryption.
If you’re only dealing with two devices – sender and receiver – it’s easier, but syncing these encrypted messages across multiple devices (potentially on the sender and receiver side) means that new systems had to be created.
Now the beta is available on iPhone and Android, so anyone can try out the new feature that lets you use up to four companion devices without needing your phone to be connected to (or near) the internet.
You’ll still need a phone – there’s no way to use WhatsApp without one – as you need to scan a QR code displayed on the linked device from your phone. But once it’s set up, your phone doesn’t need to have an internet connection, and you can still send and receive messages if your phone’s battery runs out or you turn it off completely.
Before explaining how, here are the main limitations:
- You still cannot use more than one phone with your account at the same time
- Live location cannot be displayed on companion (linked) devices
- You cannot join, view, or reset group invites from companion devices
- Linked devices will not be able to communicate with people using “very old” versions of WhatsApp
- You cannot call from a WhatsApp desktop to a linked device that is not part of the multi-device beta
So, effectively, this is a trial of a new version of WhatsApp for web, desktop, and Facebook portal. It doesn’t let you sync messages between phones, which will be disappointing for many.
How to join the beta on iPhone
In WhatsApp, tap Settings (bottom right of the main screen).
Tap Paired devices. You may see a pop-up informing you of the new feature. Just press OK if you do.
Tap Cross-Device Beta.
Tap the blue Join Beta button at the bottom and you’ll see a warning that you’ll need to reconnect all companion devices after joining.
How to try the beta on Android
- In WhatsApp, tap More options (three horizontal dots)
- Tap Paired devices. You may see a pop-up informing you of the new feature. Just press OK if you do.
- Tap Multi-Device Beta > Join Beta and follow the instructions
If you don’t see Multi-Device Beta, either you’re not using the latest version of WhatsApp or the feature is not yet available in your country. It is rolling out worldwide, however.