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WhatsApp beta suggests video calling could be right around the corner

When it launched back in 2009, WhatsApp was capable of sending messages to other users and little else. Updates since then have extended its capabilities dramatically, and now there’s evidence that a potentially game-changing piece of functionality might not be too far off.

A beta version of the Android app apparently features UI elements that refer to video calls, according to a report from Android Authority. Testers have shared images of a video call button, although it seems that the feature wasn’t actually enabled in the build.

Beta version 2.16.80 was distributed to users this weekend, although a subsequent update removed references to video calling. While this could be a sign that the functionality isn’t yet ready for public consumption, it’s also a hint that the feature doesn’t require this kind of beta testing — which might confirm that it’s due to be released sooner rather than later.

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Leaked images from an earlier beta test confirmed that video calling was coming to WhatsApp late last year. However, at that time the feature was seen running on iPhone hardware, so it was assumed that Android would be getting the capability at a later date. Now, it seems more likely that the rollout will be platform-agnostic.

We saw a demonstration of how a major new WhatsApp feature is distributed just last year, when voice calling was added to the app. It’s likely that video calling will receive the same gradual rollout, rather than every one of the service’s billion monthly users gaining access to the new functionality at the same time.

That being said, it remains to be seen just how long we’ll have to wait until WhatsApp video calling is ready for the masses. Given the length of time the feature has been in development, it can’t be far off at this point.