WhatsApp's new features organize your pics and make responding to messages easier

australian governent encryption backdoor whatsapp video call
WhatsApp, one of the world’s most popular messaging apps, is making it easier to reply to messages and keep track of photos and videos.

Starting Tuesday on iOS, WhatsApp will automatically group collections of four or more photos or videos together as an album and create a tile display within the messaging window. Tapping on the album brings up a scrollable, full-screen view.

A new reply shortcut and camera filters dovetail with the albums feature. With a simple swipe in the new WhatsApp, you can apply one of five filters — pop, black and white, cool, chrome, and film — to your photos, videos, and GIFs within the app’s camera. And you can quickly respond to messages by swiping right on them from within your WhatsApp inbox.

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The update is available now from the iTunes App Store.

Albums and quick replies build on WhatsApp’s other improvements. In January, the messaging service beta-tested a queue that lets users send replies in the absence of an internet connection, and it recently rolled out a feature that allows companies to relay updates, offers, and information to users. In February, WhatsApp marked its eight-year anniversary with the launch of Status, a tab within the app for sharing status updates in the form of ephemeral photos, videos, and GIFs that expire after 24 hours.

It also doubled down on encryption. In April 2016, it switched on end-to-end encryption for all users, and in May added encryption to iCloud backups.

That landed the service in hot water with law enforcement. Last year, judges in Brazil ordered the nationwide shutdown of WhatsApp’s messaging services in response to the company’s refusal to fork over data “relevant to [an] ongoing investigation,” and subsequently froze $11.7 million in Facebook funds when WhatsApp refused to cooperate.

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But it is part of a continued effort to build goodwill — and leverage the app’s audience. Since being acquired by Facebook in 2014, WhatsApp attracted more than 1 billion users who send 50 billion messages every day, including 3.3 billion photos, 760 million videos, and 80 million GIFs. But it failed to capitalize after eliminating its $1 subscription fee.

Messenger, Facebook’s other messaging platform, might provide a blueprint for WhatsApp’s monetization. Facebook has promoted the platform as a way to connect businesses with people for purposes beyond advertising, citing customer service as a primary feature. Retailers use the app to relay shipment tracking updates, for example, and banks use it to notify customers of fraudulent charges.

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