WhatsApp for iPhone updated now a free download, brings iCloud backups and more

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Finally what I was waiting for has become true. WhatsApp, the popular mobile messaging service has updated its iPhone app adding support for iCloud chat history backup and restore functionality and sending multiple images at the same time, in addition to bringing URL schema support for third-party apps.

With the update, WhatsApp is also changing its monetization model for the service on iPhone. It will now offer the app as a free download, however, new users will be charged $0.99 every year after getting one year of free access to the service, similar to how the service is offered on other platforms. Existing users of the WhatsApp iPhone app, though, will get the service free for life.

With the iCloud backup functionality, users will now have the option to backup their message history to iCloud, Apple’s cloud service. To activate the iCloud backups, users will need to enable ‘Chat Backup’ through their WhatsApp settings. This would essentially allow users to restore their chat history from iCloud if the delete and reinstall the app on their device or install the app on a device on which they’re signed in with the same Apple ID. Users will be prompted to restore from iCloud, while setting up the app.

Support for sending multiple pictures has also been included through a new image interface that comes up after the user selects the first image that is intended to be sent.

The update also includes URL schema support for third-party apps. This means that apps can contain a link or button that directly opens a WhatsApp chat with a contact. If the third-party app wants to add sharing using WhatsApp, the developer can use the Document Interaction API to send media to WhatsApp contacts and groups. Though I was also expecting a UI overhaul, never the less updates are always good. I wish Whatsapp has support for iPad as well.

iOS doesn’t feature WhatsApp integration in its system wide sharing menu, so individual apps can add the functionality through the API. As WhatsApp gains more popularity, more developers would want close integration with it.

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