Email, Messaging, & Video Calls Texting & Messaging What Is WhatsApp All About? Your guide to one of the most popular messaging apps of all time By Jennifer Allen Writer Jennifer Allen has been writing about technology since 2010. Her work has appeared in Mashable, TechRadar, and many more publications. our editorial process Twitter LinkedIn Jennifer Allen Updated February 14, 2020 Texting & Messaging Email Texting & Messaging Video Calls Tweet Share Email WhatsApp is the most popular instant messaging app in the world. Used by over a billion people, it's simple to use, entirely free, and offers no limits to how you communicate with people. All you need is a compatible smartphone and a phone number. But what is WhatsApp and what is it all about? Why Should I Use WhatsApp? A big reason for using WhatsApp is because everyone else is already using it, but it's also important to know people use it because it's so convenient. There are many different uses of WhatsApp, but ultimately it works well as an instant messaging app. No matter where you are in the world, you can easily send the equivalent of an SMS message to a friend or family member without worrying about it costing you money, like if they were located in a different country. Other convenient features are the fact you don't need to register for an account. You simply need a phone number to get started. There are many other reasons why WhatsApp is so popular, but the most pivotal is that it's easy to use, even if you're not particularly proficient with technology. People of all ages and ability levels can use WhatsApp, just like when sending SMS messages. Is WhatsApp Free? WhatsApp is entirely free to use. There are no limits to the service so you can message people as many times as you want without being restricted. There are also currently no ads to contend with so you don't have to put up with intrusive messages while conversing with friends and loved ones. The only part of WhatsApp that might not be free is due to your cell phone carrier. There may be fees involved here as WhatsApp uses your data allowance to exchange messages and calls, instead of your SMS allowance. Check your cell phone carrier agreement to see how you may be affected. If you connect your smartphone to a nearby Wi-Fi network, you don't have to worry about data allowance fees. How Does WhatsApp Work? WhatsApp works a lot like iMessage for iOS, but for all smartphone users. It uses your internet connection to allow you to connect to anyone whose phone number is also registered with WhatsApp, without needing to sign in or out of a separate account. You need to download the WhatsApp app to use it (as well as keep it updated), but it integrates into your phone smoothly, and you can easily share links and photos with others through the service. How to Update WhatsApp to the Latest Version on Android or iPhone It's also possible to create group chats so you can organize gatherings with your friends, or simply keep up to date with what your family is doing, all from one centralized source rather than having to use separate apps. All you need is an active internet connection on your smartphone. Can I Use WhatsApp to Make Calls? Yes. WhatsApp offers free video calling and free voice calls. That's a huge help for many as it means both Android and iOS users can make video calls for free without having to register accounts with services such as Skype. It's also possible to make group video calls with WhatsApp so that friend and family groups can converse together for free. You can't make calls or send messages to non-WhatsApp users. They need to install WhatsApp first. Is WhatsApp Safe? WhatsApp is a very safe way of messaging. It offers end-to-end encryption between users so your data is protected while it's sent between you and your contact. Occasionally, there are issues with dangerous malware links being sent to users from unknown sources, but the key to avoid this is to follow regular internet safety tips and to never interact with a link you don't recognize or expect. WhatsApp is part of Facebook, which may cause concerns from some people wary of the social media website, but the service is keen to stress that no information is ever shared with the social network. It's kept entirely separate so your privacy is maintained.