Here's the news that the thousands of you who have been hovering over every update on our previous WhatsApp Calls post have been waiting for. The service's calling functionality now seems to be open, no questions asked, no invites needed, no hacks required. The only "catch" is that you seem to need version 2.12.19, which you can find hosted on APK Mirror or on WhatsApp's website.
Once you download the apk file and install it (make sure you have Unknown Sources enabled in your phone's Security Settings to be able to do so), you'll open WhatsApp and the app's UI will have switched over to the new one with the Calls functionality enabled.
If there's one thing I learned from upgrading several family members' Android devices over the past week, it's that people are really attached to their WhatsApp history. While my smartphone days kicked off in 2007 with switching to a new review unit every couple of weeks (followed by flashing a new ROM at least once a week in 2011-2012) and learning to let go of everything I couldn't bother to move around, most users aren't accustomed to losing their data. They want their new device to have exactly what their old one had: their contacts, chat history, photos, music, and so on.
WhatsApp currently offers a backup and restore function but it requires a certain level of geekery to be carried through: you have to look for the backup option, find the folder on your internal memory or SD card, figure a way to move it over to the new phone, then install WhatsApp and hope that you did everything right by the time the app launches so that it recognizes your backup and offers to restore it.
Even though Helpouts didn't last, Google is apparently committed to exploring new uses for its Hangouts chat infrastructure. For example, go search for a restaurant. You might see a new item in the info box alongside review snippets and the location. Google is testing live chat with businesses from search results. If you launch this feature, you'll be taken to a new Hangouts conversation on the web or mobile so you can ask questions or get clarification.
In ye olden days of Android, a video-sharing service by the name of Qik attracted millions of users. It grew rapidly enough to catch Skype's eye, and the larger video-based serviced acquired the smaller for a cool $150 million. It eventually shuttered the offering, and now it's bringing it back in the form of a peculiar new video messaging app.
Skype Qik draws inspiration from a number of different apps. In a way, it's a private Vine session that you only share with one or a few contacts. After users record a short video and share it, the recipient(s) is free to respond with a short clip of their own.
Recently, we took a look at Ultra Violet, a new Hangouts app for Chrome that - at the time - was still in testing. It promised floating chats similar to Facebook's Chatheads feature, but for your desktop. Today, that app is finally a reality and available for download.
The premise is simple - as the video below demonstrates, a Hangouts bubble floats on the side of your desktop, opened from Google's Chrome app launcher, and subsequent conversations float above that. Users can click and hold to drag the bubble around and manage/participate in chats just like on the web.
New messages automatically preview in a word bubble next to their respective chat, and users can hover over each chat to see the last correspondence.
All the Voice Over IP talk in the last day or two has focused on a certain Google property, but Hangouts isn't the first one available on Android, and certainly not the most full-featured. Seven months after being acquired by Japanese retailing giant Rakuten, mobile call and text app Viber is getting a major refresh. Version 5.0 has a new look for both phones and tablets, but the big news is that the app now supports video calling.
Viber's implementation of mobile video isn't anything special, but then it hardly needs to be. You can make as many calls as you want to your Viber contacts, and the calls can work seamlessly between desktop and mobile platforms.
Google is continuing to shine a brighter light on Hangouts users who are currently online. A few months ago the company brought back the green dot that used to mark online contacts in the days of Google Talk (which was replaced with a subtle green line in Hangouts). Going forward, the messenger in the web version of Gmail will contain a new tab that puts online contacts at the top. It's still possible to message friends who are offline, they're just tucked at the bottom where they're out of the way.
Many of us have contacts we want to keep at the top of the list regardless of their online status (a significant other, a good friend, maybe even a parent), so Google has also added the ability to pin people there.
Hey, Minus, are you guys alright? Because you're demonstrating the developer equivalent of multiple personality disorder. Sixteen months after Dropbox-style cloud storage app Minus shifted 180 degrees to take aim at Instagram, it has once again become a completely different service, this time with a new name. Minus is now "Meow," a randomized chat client, sort of like Omegle or Chatroulette without the video. All that's left of the latest Minus re-brand, or indeed the original storage app, is the "com.minus.android" APK name.
There isn't much to Meow. It works as a standard all-in-one chat client a la WhatsApp and its army of clones, with a contact list sourced from Gmail and Facebook.
Now you see it, now you don't. Just like that, Blink is disappearing in the blink of an eye. Okay, not quite. Current users will gradually see the service shut down on both Android and iOS over the next few weeks, following the app's acquisition by Yahoo.
Blink was a product of Meh Labs (no, not Meth Labs), a company built by two ex-Google employees Kevin Stephens and Michelle Norgan. The app functioned similarly to Snapchat, at least in premise, by allowing users to send messages that automatically disappear. It encouraged secret, anonymous communication by not requiring users to provide their name or phone number.
Get this. Before now, Snapchat wasn't good for actually chatting. I know, for an app with chat in the name, you would understandably expect it to foster some form of conversations (the snappy kind, at least). But until now, users have only been able to take photos or short video clips, doodle on them, add captions, set how long the recipient could view them, and share. The app was less about communicating and more about, well, other stuff. But now the company has added instant messaging to the app, along with live video chatting.
Snapchat's video chats feel more spontaneous than traditional calls.