Mike says: “WhatsApp is probably my favourite messaging app that I use on my phone (I have lots! Including the unpopular Google Hangouts, I’m still trying to make that ‘a thing’). WhatsApp allows you to have group text chats and also does video and voice calls which is really useful, especially now.

We’ve written this article about what WhatsApp is, but please do get in touch with us on The Clubroom and ask any questions and we’ll update this with questions and answers as we go.”

What is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a messaging service owned by Facebook.  As with lots of techy things, it’s not very obvious where the name comes from, but it’s supposed to sound like “What’s up”.  It’s currently the most popular messaging service in the world, with over a billion people using it.

You can use WhatsApp to send instant messages to other people.  Instant messages are a lot like text messages, but they’re sent via the internet instead of the mobile phone signal.  The main reason WhatsApp became so popular is that when you’re connected to wifi it’s free to send as many messages as you like.  (The only time it’s not free is if you’re connected to the internet using mobile internet data instead of wifi, and you don’t have any mobile data included in your phone contract.)

Nowadays, most mobile phone contracts include an unlimited number of text messages, but with WhatsApps you can also send photos with the message, which costs you extra on most phone contracts, but is free with WhatsApp.

As well as sending messages and photos, you can also call people and video chat with WhatsApp too, again, all for free if you’re connected to wifi.

What devices does WhatsApp work on?

You need a smartphone to use WhatsApp.  (You technically can use it on a computer or a tablet, but it’s a bit fiddly to do and you need a mobile phone number to do it, so it’s easiest just to stick with using it on your phone.)

What do I need to use WhatsApp?

To use WhatsApp on a phone you need the WhatsApp app.  It’s completely free and you can get it by searching for “whatsapp” on your phone’s app store (the full name of the app is “WhatsApp Messenger”).

Whoever you’re sending the messages to also needs to have WhatsApp on their phone.

Mike says: “The logo and name match the one at the top of this article. Or get the download links direct from the WhatsApp website here https://www.whatsapp.com/download

What to do after you’ve got the app

When you first open the app, you’ll go through a series of setup screens.  WhatsApp often changes how they look and the order of things, so I’ll just describe what to do for each bit:

  • You’ll usually have to accept the terms and conditions at some point – tap on “Agree and continue” or whatever the wording is.
  • It might ask for some permissions to do various things too:
    • to access your contacts (which you have to do, or it just won’t work).
    • to allow notifications – a good idea, so you know when you’ve got a new message.
    • to access your photos, media and files, so you can send messages including photos, videos or other bits that are stored on your phone.
  • It’ll ask for your phone number, and will send you a text message to confirm it.
  • It’ll ask for a profile name – type one in or accept the one that’s there, and tap “Done” or “Next”.
  • It’ll ask about backing up your conversations – you can accept if you want (and it might ask for some more permissions based on that too).
  • And you might get the option to invite your friends to join WhatsApp.  If you do this, it’ll ask other people in your contacts to join WhatsApp.  You can choose how to do it (email, text, etc), and you get to type a message to them yourself.

Is it secure?

WhatsApp uses something called “end-to-end encryption”, which makes sending messages very secure.  In fact, security forces around the world are a bit unhappy about this, because it means criminals can communicate with each other without them being able to intercept the messages!