WhatsApp is investigating cross-platform functionality that doesn\’t require a phone.

Even the Facebook-owned instant messaging service admits that a major feature update has been a long-time customer desire, but WhatsApp is now pressing for it.

WhatsApp said on Wednesday that a limited public beta test of its upgraded multidevice functionality is now available.

With the update, WhatsApp users can now use the service on up to four non-phone devices simultaneously without having to turn on or otherwise connect their registered phone to the internet. A WhatsApp representative informed TechCrunch that another phone cannot be a part of this network of several devices.

The messaging service stated in a statement that \”each companion device will connect to your WhatsApp independently.\”

To be clear, WhatsApp, which has over 2 billion users worldwide, already supports using several devices. For instance, a user can use their computer\’s web browser or a desktop application to access the service at the same time. However, the multidevice support flow currently demands that the phone be online.

In the words of WhatsApp:

By requiring the phone to perform all operations, companion devices are slower and frequently get disconnected — especially when the phone has a poor connection, its battery is running low, or the application process gets killed by the phone’s OS. It also allows for only a single companion device to be operative at a time, meaning people can’t be on a call in Portal while checking their messages on their PC, for example.
The new WhatsApp multi-device architecture removes these hurdles, no longer requiring a smartphone to be the source of truth while still keeping user data seamlessly and securely synchronized and private.

This feature\’s operation is described in a whitepaper that WhatsApp released today (PDF), which provides some context for why it took so long to launch.

The company claims to have created new technologies that guarantee communications sync across different devices while retaining end-to-end encryption, a feat that is currently uncommon in the industry.

One of the numerous features WhatsApp is currently working on is the one just described. WhatsApp is developing an iPad-specific app and improving its vanishing mode functionality from last year. The app will soon add the ability to send images and videos that can only be viewed once to its existing function that lets users set a seven-day timer on messages.

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