For more than a couple of years, WhatsApp has offered releases of its app on its own website at whatsapp.com/android. Often times, those were small incremental changes over the public version available on the Play Store, but sometimes they had awesome features that were being seeded out as a test, on a limited scale, to those who were willing to live on the bleeding edge. That's how we always got our first hands on whatever new thing WhatsApp was cooking behind the scenes, like voice calling, Material Design, new emojis, Google Drive backup, and more.
However, in order to stay up to date with these releases, you either had to go check the site for anything new or keep an eye on WhatsApp's releases on APK Mirror to get the latest and greatest. And even then, you had to be willing to open up installations from untrusted sources on your phone, because you were technically manually installing an APK. I know a friend who was adamant about not toggling that Setting button, despite me repeatedly explaining to him that WhatsApp's site is an official source and APK Mirror uploads are verified and trusted sources too. Oh well, I got to tease him with the new emojis for over a month and he couldn't see any of them.
All of this long introduction is to say that it does make more sense to have an official Play Store beta program. Updates get delivered automatically, they're incremental so you don't have to download the entire APK each time (that matters when you're on a limited connection and WhatsApp releases a new bug fix every couple of hours), and you don't have to change the untrusted sources setting if that's something you're paranoid about.
So I'm quite happy to see that WhatsApp has officially opened up beta testing through the Play Store. There are no Google+ communities or Google Groups to join first, you just head over to the Play Store's WhatsApp testing page and choose to become a tester. You'll then be switched over to the beta release channel and you'll start getting the yet-unreleased versions on your device automatically.
- Everyone who sent this in.