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WhatsApp: the best tips at a glance

Michael Rupp, Panagiotis Kolokythas, Sandra Ohse, Verena Ottmann, Thomas Rau, Benjamin Schischka and Dennis Steimels

Fast, easy and free: WhatsApp is the top dog among mobile messengers. We present useful tips.

The only requirement for Whatsapp: Both sender and receiver must have the app installed. The service behind the app is based on a client-server structure. To ensure that messages can be sent immediately, the clients, i.e. your smartphone, log on to a server that handles all communication. The server manages all users and contacts and transfers status information and file attachments. Instead of calling or texting, you can see who is online at a glance. Contacts who have switched off their mobile phones or who do not reveal their presence status will receive their notifications as soon as the device is logged into the network again.

Note (as of January 2020): WhatsApp has currently severely restricted the "Export chat history" function in Germany. You can find more details about the backgrounds in this post.

A big plus compared to special chat services such as Apple's iMessage: Messages can be sent between the individual operating systems without you as the user having to worry about them.

WhatsApp really free?

WhatsApp is available for Android, iOS, BlackBerry OS, Symbian and Windows Phone. The app itself and its use has been completely free since January 2016. WhatsApp has abolished the previous annual fee of 0.89 euros. WhatsApp informed users about this.

After installing WhatsApp, you have to verify your phone number once via an automatically sent SMS.

This means that there are no costs for using WhatsApp as long as you use WLAN or have a data flat rate. The app runs with the same data plan that you use for surfing and for emails. So you will not be overwhelmed by the costs if you exchange hundreds or even thousands of messages, photos and videos a month. However, data roaming abroad can drive up costs. Without a data flat rate, the use of WhatsApp is not recommended.

WhatsApp: those are the security concerns

To this day, WhatsApp has a major flaw: the lack of security. In order for WhatsApps to work, the service accesses the entire address book of the smartphone and transmits its content and changes to the entries to a US server. As a user, you reveal details about your personal environment to the company behind WhatsApp - i.e. Facebook. It is unclear whether and how the data will be evaluated, archived and merged into personal profiles. In addition, the use of a provider based in the USA can mean that all stored data can be read by US authorities without you noticing. Incidentally, you cannot switch off reading out the phone book, otherwise the app will no longer work.

Since the end of September / beginning of October 2016, WhatsApp has been forwarding phone and usage data to Facebook following a change in the usage and data protection regulations. Facebook uses this data, it is said, to improve the "Facebook advertising and product experiences" of users.

Spammers have also discovered WhatsApp for themselves: therefore, do not accept links from people you do not know.

Tip:How to use WhatsApp on PC and tablet

Update Whatsapp

EnlargeYou should always keep the app up to date.

For security reasons, it is also important to always use the latest version of Whatsapp. You can check whether there is an update via the Google Play Store (under “My apps and games”) and then install it. Whatsapp often offers new versions for Android faster than APK files. The version number is displayed directly below the download button. You can find out which version you are using on your Android smartphone in Whatsapp by tapping the menu button in the top right corner (the three dots) and selecting “Settings -> Help -> App info”. The installation of an APK file that is not obtained directly from the Google Play Store requires that you also allow this on your Android. In the Android settings under “Security” in the “Device Management” you will find the option to activate the installation of apps from “unknown sources” with a switch. As of Android 8, the installation authorization is shifted to the app level. We recommend that you only activate this function temporarily for the installation of Android apps from really trustworthy sources and then deactivate it again immediately afterwards.

Alternative:After a short registration it is also possible to participate in the beta program for Whatsapp via the Google Play Store. As a beta tester you will receive new functions a little faster and can test them. Of course, there is also the risk that the app will end up with you as a beta version with more serious bugs.

Whatsapp tips that everyone should know

In the following we will now introduce you to tricks that make WhatsApp more convenient and safer:

1. Basics

1.1 Add and manage contacts

Tapping on “Chats” brings you to an overview of the last chat sessions. At the beginning the list is empty. Click the chat icon in the lower right and select a recipient from the contact list. Now you can enter your text. If you want to send a message to several recipients in one go, tap "Multiple recipients" in the contact list. Or you can simply define a group. This is done by tapping "New Group". Up to 30 participants can be included here (see also point 7 "Groups" below).

Problem 1: The contact does not appear in Whatsapp

Solution: Sometimes a contact does not appear in WhatsApp even though they have installed the app on their smartphone. Usually the spelling of the telephone number of the relevant contact is the cause. Then switch to the smartphone's address book and check the stored telephone number. According to the international spelling, it should start with "+". This is followed by the country code and the mobile number without a leading zero, for example "+4917188 ...".

Problem 2: The contact has not yet installed Whatsapp

Solution: You can also invite people you know who have not yet been reached via WhatsApp to use the Messenger. In the chat overview, tap on the button with the three dots in the upper right corner, on "Settings" and then on "Invite friends".

First of all, determine how you want to send the invitation. You can choose from e-mail, SMS, Facebook or Snapchat, for example. Depending on the selected transmission method, you can then select one or more contacts or enter the desired recipient of the notification.