Finally, WhatsApp has moved into the realm of Android apps that I can start using regularly on my Chromebook. Where Goliath Mail used to require a phone number to get started on any platform (WhatsApp is obviously focused on mobile devices) recent updates have finally allowed the Android app to use the QR code link method we have been in the web app for years.
On your Chromebook, you can simply install WhatsApp from the Play Store, scan the link code, and be up and running straight away. Previously, without substantial gymnastics, you couldn’t get this app to work on a Chromebook. And, frankly, that’s great since the web app is so good at 90% of the things you need to do in WhatsApp. However, this Android app allows for a few additions that may be worthwhile for some users.
Upgrades via web version
The biggest upgrades you’ll get using the Android app over the web version of WhatsApp are in the standard and video calling departments. While WhatsApp isn’t my preferred service for either of these things, sometimes it’s the fastest option. If I’m chatting with someone and need to explain myself quickly, a call or video chat is a simple and easy way to do that, and with the WhatsApp Android app, that’s a simple press of a button.
At the moment these things are not possible with the web application and having them immediately available from my desktop is a pretty big advantage. With the way WhatsApp works these days, I see no reason why it won’t support web video calling in the future, but it certainly doesn’t at the moment. You want these things? You’ll want to go ahead with the Android app.
Additionally, the WhatsApp app supports phone-style notifications, which means you can completely close the app and still receive push notifications on your Chromebook. Whether it’s a message, call, or video chat, it will show up in your notifications whether the app is open or closed, and that’s pretty awesome. Sometimes I forget to reopen the web app when I’m in the office and miss messages if my phone isn’t right next to me. With this version of Android, this will no longer happen.
Finally, quick message shortcuts are available if you right-click on the WhatsApp icon in your shelf or app launcher. This is another productivity boost you’ll get over the web app’s relatively spartan context menu. I know this particular addition will be widely used by many.
Downgrades from web app
I’ll be using this app for a while and see how I like it, but there are definitely some downgrades here too. First, the layout stinks a bit. It’s still the phone version of the app, so the web app’s dual pane layout is gone, and I don’t like that at all. Having desktop space is nice, and the dual pane views are great for almost any messaging app. Losing it will take some getting used to.
I was going to list more, but I haven’t come across any other weaknesses so far. While the web app is pretty awesome and I think it could match all those capabilities we see with the Android version, the fact is it just doesn’t do everything WhatsApp is capable of at the moment . I think that will change, but until it does, this Android app looks like my new WhatsApp solution on Chromebooks. We’ll see how long it lasts.