With an update released today, WhatsApp has introduced free audio calling on iOS (previously launched on Android), improvements to how photos can be attached to conversations, and a new iOS 8 share extension to send content from other apps.
VoIP calling is still rolling out to users worldwide and I’m not a heavy user of media sharing through WhatsApp (I prefer iMessage’s higher quality settings), but I often share links and images downloaded from the web with WhatsApp, and I was curious to try the new extension.
When sharing to WhatsApp from the extension, you’ll be presented with a full-screen tabbed interface to switch between recent chats, groups, broadcast lists, and your full list of contacts. Recent chats is the default view when you activate the extension – a good choice considering how most people tend to switch between their latest conversations. If you want to navigate your contact list and find a specific recipient, however, you can swipe down to reveal the search bar and type the name of a person you can contact over WhatsApp.
Sharing of basic text such as links from Safari, Chrome, or Dropbox is simple and well done. Once you’ve picked a conversation, the extension will display a dialog box with pre-filled input text and the cursor placed on top of it (with a new line). This is another nice touch: when you’re sharing a link with another person, you likely want to add a comment before the link, and the WhatsApp extension lets you start typing right away without having to add a new line or, worse, adjusting the cursor position manually.
I also like how media sharing has been implemented in the extension, particularly for pictures. From any app that supports sharing images with extensions (such as Apple’s Photos), you can select one or more images and you’ll be shown the same WhatsApp UI with recent chats and other contacts. Once you select a conversation in picture-sharing mode, though, you’ll get to an editing screen where you can flip through multiple pictures, add a caption, crop and rotate items, and delete pictures you don’t want to share anymore.
This mirrors the set of new media sharing controls available in WhatsApp, which I find useful for sharing multiple pictures with relatives or friends who don’t have an iPhone and use WhatsApp for cross-platform conversations instead.
Compared to Apple’s Messages extension, WhatsApp’s is focused on letting you quickly pick a conversation and share an item (text, images, or videos) with two taps. This is a different approach than Apple’s solution, which still involves typing a person’s name in the ‘To:’ field before sending and that is considerably slower than glancing at your recent chats and selecting one. I would like to see Apple consider this different user experience for its Messages extension in the future, taking a look at how WhatsApp and Group Text+ have implemented fast message sharing from the iOS 8 share sheet.
I’m pleased to see WhatsApp adding support for a share extension in today’s update, although I remain disappointed in Facebook’s decision to not offer an iPad app.
You can download the latest WhatsApp update from the App Store.