WhatsApp coming to iPad, New code buried in the latest beta shows the app will likely link four devices to a single account.


WhatsApp coming to iPad, The messaging giant is playing catch-up with other platforms that do offer seamless cross-platform access. And it can’t come soon enough.

WhatsApp dominates secure messaging—no-one has done more to bring end-to-end encryption to the masses, and its 2 billion users are safer for it. But new updates from Apple and Google, as well as the mainstreaming of Signal, have raised the bar. WhatsApp is fighting back, with several updates now in beta. But multiple device access is one area where it still pales in comparison.

I first reported that WhatsApp had multiple linked devices under development last month. And now the excellent WABetaInfo has confirmed more code in the latest beta that appears to confirm the update is on its way and shows how it will work. Four devices linked to a single phone number, a single account.

WhatsApp coming to iPad, This may mean using two-factor authentication on new devices—and using WhatsApp on a computer or tablet without it being limited to a web app that pulls content from your phone. This current approach is far from ideal and misses much of the app’s functionality. That will now change

WhatsApp does not want to compromise its end-to-end encryption, and that’s where it has a challenge. Design decisions will include whether to transfer message history to a newly linked device, whether to hold a central repository, and how to run end-to-end encryption where both sides of a chat—or the multiple sides of a group—have more than one device, creating a wide range of endpoints.

The introduction of multiple linked devices is huge for WhatsApp—it is its biggest weakness against the competition. This will allow the platform to play catch-up with the likes of iMessage and Signal, both of which have exceptionally good options to link multiple devices. If reports that Google plans to end-to-end encrypt its RCS messaging platform are true, then there’s another one in the mix.

But, for WhatsApp owner Facebook, this also brings a serious problem. Users of its popular Facebook Messenger—which is not end-to-end encrypted by default—should now switch to WhatsApp. Multi-platform access was its main advantage over WhatsApp—that will be gone.

There is also talk of interoperability—WhatsApp users able to message Messenger accounts. Meanwhile, Facebook has again confirmed its plans to add end-to-end encryption to messenger, but that’s not due anytime soon.

This is one of the two critical functionality updates WhatsApp is adding—the other is to extend end-to-end encryption to cloud backups. Currently these can be accessed by the cloud provider—largely Apple or Google. A WhatsApp update is also in the works to fix this issue, introducing the separation of a secure message history from the primary phone, and this may help support secure multiple device access.

The security of messing platforms, the lack of access to content by law enforcement and security agencies has created a major rift between lawmakers and the U.S. tech giants behind the platforms. And that is why the latest update teased out of a new WhatsApp beta release is so important—it’s another statement by Facebook that it intends to expand the use of encryption, widening its reach.

As I’ve said before, despite other platforms being more secure, no-one has done more to popularize secure messaging than WhatsApp, and I would happily advise anyone to use the platform as their go-to messenger.

One word of advice though—set-up a secure PIN, because phones do get hacked, and WhatsApp can’t protect you if you don’t protect yourself. And if you are concerned about your content, disable cloud backups until they’re end-to-end encrypted.

This news was originally published at forbes.com