Wednesday, May 11, 2016

WhatsApp for PC : Hands on and the (im)possibility of UWP app

WhatsApp announced their desktop apps for PC and Mac, which is nothing more than a web wrap of WhatsApp Web but with notifications directly in your computer.

Opening the app presents you with the same UI that you find in WhatsApp Web. The login process is also similar, you open WhatsApp in your phone and scan the QR code, voila ! All your chats are synced to your desktop.

The application has a set of options in the menu bar. Under WhatsApp menu you have "new chat", "new group", "Profile status" and "Log out" which are pretty obvious and useful. The "+" sign also allows you to start a new chat with your contacts.
You can Zoom in or out from the View menu. Chat menu holds Mute, Delete, Archive and Mark as Unread. What's interesting in these things is that every option has a shortcut to execute it. So if you prefer to learn the shortcuts then WhatsApp for PC would be very useful. Interestingly there is a option to join beta testing from the Help tab.

Better Notifications with badges and Action center support

Here is where things differ from the web client, these apps can push you live notifications so that you don't miss your chats. It has two ways of letting the user know that there are pending notification, one is Action center integration and the other is showing the number of unread chats as Badges in Taskbar. In addition, the notification appear in the corner of your PC and clicking on it takes you directly to the chat. Pretty quick and useful.

So that's how the app essentially works and it might come handy for users who keep their PC and Mac always connected to their WhatsApp. However the app doesn't run as a background service which means you have to fire it up every time you open your PC/Mac. It is also noted that the recently added bold, italic and strike through words aren't supported as of now. If these are added, then the app will provide a solid experience.

Will it become Universal app ?

Since the release of the app, I've seen many people speculating the release of Universal WhatsApp app for Mobile and PC. Why have separate apps if one can run in both Phone and PC ? Here are the reasons why WhatsApp for PC and Mobile won't become UWP anytime soon
  • Windows 10 Mobile is a relatively new OS as compared to Windows Phone 8.1 and only around 9% of phones are running W10M while >70% are still in WP 8.1. Releasing an UWP means terminating future updates to majority of users as UWP is compatible only with W10M.
  • WhatsApp for PC is still not a standalone product, it depends upon your mobile for mirroring all your chats. So creating a Universal app would create a new problem, the mobile one should work as expected and the desktop one should work as an app which mirrors the mobile chats. This would result in unnecessary amount of code in a single package.
  • If at all there will be UWA it will be released when Windows 10 gains more market in mobile and WhatsApp decides to stop supporting Windows 8.x in PC.
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