How To Install WhatsApp’s Multi-Device Update On Your Phone

Zak Doffman



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WhatsApp has come under serious pressure this year, as the world’s most popular messenger was caught in the Apple-Facebook crossfire. But the platform has fought back, distancing itself from Facebook and plugging two critical gaps.

This week, we have seen the long-awaited confirmation that end-to-end encrypted backups are “starting to roll out.” This fixes WhatsApp’s biggest security vulnerability, where cloud back-ups have been accessible by Google or Apple. Once this update lands on your phone, you should enable it. iPhone users beware, though, you need to disable iCloud backups, or you will also back up your chats without this protection.

Encrypting backups is a huge deal. But from a daily use perspective, the biggest update this year is multi-device access. This finally bridges the gap to iMessage, Signal, Telegram, even Facebook Messenger. With it, WhatsApp suddenly becomes the most secure multi-device, multi-platform messenger in the world. Period.

Multi-device access is available now—as a public beta. I have been using this for a while to get a sense of whether this is ready for wider adoption. And with some major caveats, in my view it is now ready to use.

First, let’s deal with the “why.” Until now, using WhatsApp on a desktop has required your phone to be switched on and connected. WhatsApp has only provided a remote window onto your phone’s app—disconnect your phone and it stops working.

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With the new architecture, each linked device or endpoint has its own connection to WhatsApp, and so while your phone remains the primary device, it doesn’t need to be connected for other linked devices to work. End-to-end encryption extends to these multiple, linked devices, ensuring that every connection is secured.

There is a major caveat with the beta, though. WhatsApp needs to provide dedicated apps to make this work smoothly, especially on tablets. For now, the only way to use multi-device access on an iPad is through web access, and that’s a painful process. But it’s still better than it was before, and, critically, much more secure.

WhatsApp is expected to go fully live with multi-device access soon, and code now in test suggests the next update will enable dedicated mobile apps for tablets, but there is speculation that WhatsApp might also enable multiple phones. This would benefit anyone with work and home devices, or different phones for different countries.

I have been using the multi-device beta on a desktop and an iPad. The desktop app remains clunky and needs some rework, but it does retain its connection regardless for the state of your phone. You can add a link to your Home Screen, and it will revert to the open Safari tab, but make sure it’s not a private Safari tab, or it won’t work.

While WhatsApp has some serious catching up to do with the likes of iMessage and Signal before this multi-device access can be considered productionized, the complex architectural upgrade has worked flawlessly, and that’s where the work has been. Even so, it’s still better than the current screen scrape or having to revert to your phone.

You should evaluate the beta and try this for yourself. You will need to re-link any devices, and be warned, your contacts will likely receive multiple “new device” notifications in your chats, as you usually see when a contact changes their phone. Hopefully, this will be another issue ironed out in the full release.