WhatsApp has become a popular instant messaging service for smartphone users worldwide thanks to its remarkable ease of use and economical $1-a-year unlimited subscription plan. That’s considerably cheaper than many carriers charge for text messages, even on unlimited plans, and the fact that the message system uses your existing phone number (and the phone numbers of your friends and contacts) is a major plus.
WhatsApp works across multiple mobile devices, so you can use the same account and number on different phones and tablets. But what if you’re chained to your desk at work, and want to get in a little surreptitious texting? WhatsApp now has a web app that lets you do just that.
What you’ll need
In order to use WhatsApp Web, you’ll need at least one phone or tablet with an active WhatsApp account, and you’ll need it with you when you sign in. The web service is compatible with WhatsApp mobile apps on Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry, and Nokia’s S60 or S40 phones. Your phone also needs to have a rear-facing camera.
Next you’ll need a computer — desktop, laptop, Windows, Mac, Chromebook, it doesn’t matter. You’ll also need a recent version of a modern browser: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or Safari. WhatsApp Web does not support Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge.
Lastly you’ll need an active Internet connection on both your computer and phone. A Wi-Fi connection for your phone is recommended to save battery power.
If you haven’t done so already, install WhatsApp on your phone or tablet from your device’s app store. You’ll need the latest version, so if you haven’t updated your apps in a while, do so now. Sign in and/or verify your number in WhatsApp.
Connecting your phone and computer
On your computer, open your browser and head to the website http://web.whatsapp.com. (Bookmark the address if you’re going to use it often.) The WhatsApp Web home page is extremely simple: just a QR code and an option to stay signed in.
Now switch back to your phone. You’ll need to open the WhatsApp Web function. Here are the procedures for the various mobile operating systems, starting from the main WhatsApp screen:
- Android: tap the Menu button, then tap “WhatsApp Web.”
- iOS: tap the Settings tab, then tap “WhatsApp Web.”
- Windows Phone: tap the Menu button, then tap “WhatsApp Web.”
- Blackberry 9 or older: Tap “Chats,” then “Menu,” then “WhatsApp Web.”
- Blackberry 10: Swipe down from the top of the main screen and tap “WhatsApp Web.”
- Nokia S60: tap the Menu button, then tap “WhatsApp Web.”
- Nokia S40: Swipe up from the bottom of the main screen and tap “WhatsApp Web.”
Your app will then open a screen with a camera window. Point your phone’s camera at your computer screen and align it so that the QR code is centered in the window. Within a second or two the web app will authenticate, and your account and contacts will appear in the primary WhatsApp Web screen.
If you click the “keep me signed in” option on the login page, you should be able to close and open the web interface for as long as your desktop browser session is active and as long as the mobile app stays active on your phone. If you’re logged out, just repeat the steps above.
Using WhatsApp Web
WhatsApp Web works more or less the same way that it does on your phone. The primary screen shows a list of all the chats you’re currently engaged in on your phone (or any other devices). To start a new chat, click the text message icon in the left column and either click one of the contact names or start typing in the “Search Contacts” field. Your chat itself will appear on the right side, and you can switch between any of them at any time.
Any messages you send will be sent immediately to your contact’s phone, or any other device they happen to be using (including WhatsApp Web on their end). To start a new group chat, click the menu button (three vertical dots) and then “new group chat.” To log out of WhatsApp Web, click the menu button then “log out.”
As of fall 2015, WhatsApp Web does not support phone calls.
Enable browser notifications
If you’d like to see new text messages come in even when you don’t have the WhatsApp Web tab or window active, you can enable browser notifications. These will appear as small alerts in the corner of your screen. When you first open WhatsApp Web, you should see a message in blue just beneath your profile photo with the words “Get Notified of New Notifications.” Click the link below and follow the instructions that appear on screen, and you’re ready to go.
If you want to disable or re-enable desktop notifications, click the Menu button in the WhatsApp Web interface, then click “Notifications.” On this page you can enable or disable notifications altogether, select whether they play an audible alert, or mute notifications for an hour, a day, or a whole week.