There's always a bit of a learning curve when it comes to mastering new apps and WhatsApp is no different. It's wickedly popular (it recently hit a billion users) and extremely easy to get started using right away, but the messenger does have a few quirks that aren't immediately obvious at first. There are also a few hidden features that aren't the simplest to enable.
If you have some patience and the willingness to tinker however, we're sure that anybody can figure out WhatsApp in no time but we thought we'd make it a little easier.
We've gone over everything you could possibly want to know about WhatsApp, from how exactly the app works to tips and tricks every user should keep at their disposal.
What is WhatsApp and how does it work?
WhatsApp is an instant messaging app that Facebook acquired in 2014. You'd typically use the app to send things like text messages, images, video, audio messages - or even to place a Wi-Fi call to a friend.
It's recently taken the crown for the world's most popular messaging app after hitting one billion active users, handling a whopping 42 billion messages a day and 250 million videos.
The first thing you need to know is that WhatsApp has no adverts and it is now entirely free after a recent scrap of the £0.79 yearly subscription charge. The app is available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows devices.
Once installed, you'll be asked to enter your mobile phone number. WhatsApp needs your actual number because it routes files and messages between you and your contacts similar to how an SMS system would.
WhatsApp has a menu bar that runs along the bottom of all the screens within the app. It has the following five tabs: Favourites, Recents, Contacts, Chats, and Settings. Tap on any tab in order to access a new screen and its related features and settings.
The Favourites screen should pre-load any of your phone contacts who have installed WhatsApp, but you can tap the "+" symbol in the upper right-hand corner to add more contacts. Alternatively, you can tap "Edit" in the left corner to begin deleting contacts from Favourites.
The Recents tab displays all your placed and missed WhatsApp calls, as well as allow you to clear them. The next tab on the menu bar is for Contacts, and it's where you should go to browse through your phone contacts and maybe invite them to join WhatsApp.
The fourth tab is for Chats. This is a running log of all your active messages. Tap the draft symbol in the upper right-hand corner to start a new chat with a single friend, or you can tap "New Group" to start a group chat with up to 100 people at once. Every group has one or more admins.
You might also notice a feature called Broadcast Lists under Chats. Broadcasting messaging lets you send a message to many people at once, without revealing the recipients. It's kinda like bcc (blind carbon copy) from email, and each recipient can respond to you individually.
The ability to create Broadcast Lists enables you to preserve a saved list of contacts to whom you send Broadcast Messages. To send a Broadcast Message to a specific contact, that person must have your phone number saved in their address book.
The fifth and final tab is Settings. Under this screen, you'll find privacy options, ways to change your notification alerts, network usage stats, a tool for archiving chats, and a place to connect your Facebook account, among many other things.
While in a chat window with a friend or group, you can send anything from photos to audio files. Tap in the text field at the bottom of the chat to bring up a keyboard and enter a message, or tap the arrow symbol on the left for more options.
The arrow should bring up options to take a photo/video or send one from your library, as well as share a location or a contact. You can also send or take a photo by tapping the camera symbol found on the right side of the text field in chat.
There is also a mic symbol on the right side of the text field that you can tap in order to record and send an audio message.
Finally, in the top right-hand corner of any chat window, you'll see a dialer symbol. Simply click it to phone the contact you're chatting with, or don't. WhatsApp Calling uses your phone's internet connection rather than your cellular plan's voice minutes (so data charges may apply).
WhatsApp tips and tricks
There are of course plenty of tips and tricks on WhatsApp that are definitely worth checking out. Whether it is simply deleting a chat, which is not as obvious as you might think, to stopping the ticks turning blue even if you've read a message, here are a few WhatsApp tips and tricks worth checking out.
Use WhatsApp on the web
WhatsApp isn't limited to your mobile phone. There's a web app that syncs everything from your phone. If you have the Chrome browser installed on your computer, go to the WhatsApp Web page, scan the QR code, and follow the instructions for your phone.
It'll serve up chats and alerts on your computer, allowing you to reply quickly and easily. Your phone will need to be connected for it to work though so if you lose your connection, the web app will stop syncing until you get your phone connection back.
Use WhatsApp on your desktop
Along with WhatsApp Web, there is also a desktop app for Windows 8 and above users and Mac OS X 10.9 and above. You can download it from whatsapp.com/download/ and again, it will mirror your smartphone like the web platform does.
You'll need to scan the QR code again but after that, you'll get all your chats and conversations on your computer screen, making it nice and simple to reply. For more information on the WhatsApp desktop app, you can read our separate feature.
Protect your chats with a passcode
WhatsApp doesn't let you protect chats from snoopers, but third-party apps on Android will let you enable a password or PIN.
Try Messenger and Chat Block, AppLock, or Smart AppLock if you are an Android user. On Windows Phone, there's WhatsApp Locker, and on BlackBerry, you can try Lock for Whats Messenger.
Hide timestamps, read receipts, and more
When you look at a chat window or even a contact within WhatsApp, you'll often see a "Last Seen" timestamp under his or her name. It's a handy little indicator for when the contact last checked WhatsApp. If you don't want people to see when exactly you're using WhatsApp, you can hide your Last Seen timestamp. Just go to Settings, then Account, and Privacy.
Be sure to toggle Last Seen to "Nobody", but doing so will also prevent you from being able to see everybody's last seen time. Under this section, you will also see that you can hide your profile photo, status, and read receipts. You can even manage your list of blocked contacts.
Trick of the blue ticks
If you want to keep read receipts on but stop the someone seeing when you have actually read a message, there is a trick for that too. Before you open the specific message, put your smartphone into airplane mode. Open the message when airplane mode is still on and then come out of it and turn it off.
The ticks shouldn't turn blue so the sender won't know you've read it.
Archive your chats
Archive Chat allows you to hide a conversation from your Chats screen. It does not delete the chat nor does it back up the chat to your SD card. It simply organises your conversations. You can archive groups or individual chats, and they will disappear until you pull down from the top of the Chats display and tap the Archived Chats tab.
To archive all chats, go to Settings, then scroll down, and select Archive All Chats. You can also clear all chats from this same section.
Determine when your sent message was read
Check marks appear next to each message you send. One grey check mark indicates to you that the message was successfully sent to the recipient, while two grey check marks indicate when the message was successfully delivered to the recipient's phone. Two blue check marks alerts you when the recipient has read your message.
You can find out a little extra detail about your sent messages too though. Just tap and hold on the message, and then tap the Info option in order to get message details like the precise time it was delivered and read. In iOS, you can also just tap and drag the message to the left.
Stop incoming media from automatically saving
By default, for whatever reason, WhatsApp automatically saves images and videos from recipients to the Camera Roll on iOS devices or in Gallery or Photos app on Android. You can stop this on iOS by going to Settings and then Chat Settings. From there, toggle off "Saving Incoming Media".
Mute group notifications
Group conversations can be the worst. You might not be able to leave the conversation, but you can mute notifications so you aren't awakened every time someone throws in their two cents. If you're using an iPhone, just open the group chat, tap the subject to get the Group Info screen, and then tap Mute. In Android, open the chat, then tap the Menu button, and tap Mute.
You can specify a time period or turn off notifications permanently.
Find particular messages easier
Some messages are more exciting or more important than others. Rather than having to scroll back through the entire chat though, you can star a message. To do this, hold the message that you want to star until the options come up and then tap on the star. Each message you star can then be found in the Starred Messages tab in Settings.
Find out who you talk to the most
If you want to know who you send the most messages to, or which contact is using up a chunk of storage, head to Settings then Account and then Storage Usage. You might be surprised how many messages you send to certain people.
Find out how much data you're using
If you're worried about your data usage, you can find out exactly how much you are using by heading to Settings, Account, Data Usage and then Network Usage. You'll get a breakdown of total number of sent and received messages, as well as data sent and received.
Backup your chats
When you switch to a new phone, you can take your WhatsApp chat history with you. Just go to Settings within the iPhone app, then tap Chat Settings, and select Chat Backup. From there, back up the chat now or turn on Auto Backup to iCloud. You can restore your chats when you reinstall WhatsApp on the new phone.
If you use a microSD card with an Android, go to Menu, then Settings, and Chat Settings. From there, select Backup conversations, and then be sure to move the microSD card over to the new phone. You'll also need to reinstall WhatsApp and Restore when prompted.
If the backup is on internal storage, you can use a file explorer to find and manually move contents in the /sdcard/WhatsApp/ folder. Simples.