After introducing instant video messages in a recent update, WhatsApp is now rolling out a feature called Voice Chat. According to WABetaInfo, the new feature is available to some beta testers who are running WhatsApp beta for Android 126.96.36.199; it’s expected to reach more users in the coming days.
As per the website, WhatsApp Voice Chat is available to groups and does away with the need to make voice calls on the app. While participants of a group can send voice messages individually, the new feature allows them to join a common voice chat of phone calls or texting.
The feature can be accessed via a waveform button present in the top-right corner of the group chat screen. Any participant can start the voice chat and a dedicated UI will show up at the top of the screen.
The difference from phone calls is that starting a voice chat will not ring the phone and all users will only get a silent push notification when a chat is created in their group.
Once started, any participant in the group can join the voice chat and start talking. But it will turn off after 60 minutes if the chat remains empty and no one joins. WABetaInfo notes that only certain groups can access the voice chat feature and it only supports up to 32 participants at the moment.
However, it could be possible that the feature is available to groups with more users. The feature seems to be a wide release and might be available to some users on the stable version of the app.
The Meta-owned instant messaging is on a launch spree this year with features like contextual stickers, confidential chats, silencing unknown callers, and the ability to edit sent messages. In a recent update, WhatsApp also made it easier for users to text unsaved phone numbers without leaving the app.