WhatsApp has supported group audio and video calls since 2018, but you have always been limited to calling three other people at one time. During times of stay-at-home orders and quarantines, that might not be enough to stay connected with all of your friends and family. An update to the WhatsApp beta channel improves that situation as it raises the limit to up to eight participants (including yourself) for the first few users, but it involves a server-side change, too.
WhatsApp's voice calling doesn't seem like it has changed a lot since it was first tested as an invite-only feature then released to everyone in March of 2015. But the service, from my personal experience, has become more reliable, less spotty, with fewer delays and disconnections. Around me, everyone uses WhatsApp calls, because everyone is on WhatsApp to begin with, but also because local calls still aren't unlimited or cheap on any plan, not to mention the exorbitant prices of international calls. WhatsApp calls have almost completely replaced regular calls for us, and it's not hard to imagine that it must be the same in other countries where WhatsApp is popular too.
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.
A few weeks ago, WhatsApp's Call feature made a small appearance for a few users, but at the time almost no one was able to trigger it reliably and keep it activated. The company appears to have flipped a few switches in its servers and the function is confirmed to work for those running version 2.11.528 from the Play Store, or 2.11.531 from WhatsApp's website (also uploaded to APKMirror).
CJ is happy to make a WhatsApp call. I assume that's why his image is so cheerful.
A few users have emailed us reporting getting the function activated over the past hours, and I just got mine up and running after receiving a call from Clinton (who got it from another friend, and so on).