3 big changes coming to WhatsApp – from locking chats to no more phone numbers

 ·1 Dec 2023

Meta-owned WhatsApp is constantly updating and has several new features in the pipeline for users.

WhatsApp is the preferred messaging platform in South Africa due to its free service and constant updates, including the recent introduction of Channels.

Two years ago, there were 21 million users in South Africa, with 23 million using the platform today. It is estimated that by 2026, there will be 26 million users. Additionally, of those who use social media in the country, 93.3% use WhatsApp.

However, before releasing new updates to everyday users, WhatsApp first rolls them out to beta testers in order to identify and address any technical issues that may negatively impact the app’s performance or user experience.

WABetaInfo, a data service, provides a detailed summary of all the new features that WhatsApp is either releasing or currently working on.

Below are three new features that users should keep an eye out for:

Email account verification

WhatsApp has added the ability to link an email address to a user’s account with the latest update to its iOS mobile app.

The feature will allow users to log into their WhatsApp accounts using an email address rather than their phone number. It will prove particularly useful for those unable to receive verification codes via SMS or get a verification call from WhatsApp.

This can include people who have been robbed of or lost their phone and have not had the time to perform a SIM swap.

However, creating and using a WhatsApp account will still require a linked phone number, and logging into the app using a phone number remains an option. The publication said the feature will be rolling out to users over the coming weeks with the latest official version of the iOS app.

Chat lock

WhatsApp is also rolling out access to a new shortcut that allows users to quickly lock chats directly from the chat list. WhatsApp is improving the process of locking conversations by introducing a dedicated toggle within the chat info screen.

As you can see in this screenshot, some beta testers can now have access to a new shortcut that allows them to quickly lock chats directly from the chat list. Just open the chat options to check if this shortcut is already available to your account.

This toggle also provides users with a more intuitive method to lock their conversations. In the previous updates, users had to navigate through a separate section within chat info to enable chat locks. Thanks to the latest update, the process is more efficient with the dedicated toggle.

WABetaInfo said the feature will be rolling out to users over the coming weeks with the latest official version of the iOS app.


WhatsApp is working on bringing a username feature to a future update of the app. This feature is under development, so it’s not ready for beta testers, but WABetaInfo provided a preview.

WhatsApp is working on a feature to allow users to choose a username. Thanks to this feature, users will have the option to interact with others using a distinct identifier, reducing the reliance on phone numbers. 

The search bar will allow users to search for other users by their username, enhancing the process of connecting and improving privacy by eliminating the need to share personal phone numbers.

WABetaInfo noted that this will provide users with a strong layer of privacy thanks to the ability to search for others using a username. Users will be able to connect with others without necessarily disclosing their phone numbers.

Read: Government working on a new streaming service for South Africa

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