WhatsApp's native app for macOS enters public beta
WhatsApp native app for macOS is now available in public beta. The Meta-owned messaging service had initially confirmed that it was working on a new Mac app in August 2022, when it released its UWP app on Windows.
WhatsApp's beta app for Mac was available in a closed beta program through the Testflight app, but it had limited seats. This restriction is no longer in place, head to the official website to download the WhatsApp native app for macOS.
WABetaInfo, who spotted the app first, reports that the native version for macOS is built with Mac Catalyst framework. This will allow it to run on macOS and iPadOS, so it is possible that it could come to Apple's tablets in the future. The new beta version of the desktop app is compatible with devices running on macOS Big Sur or later.
The current version of the app is WhatsApp 184.108.40.206. You cannot use it alongside WhatsApp Desktop Beta (non-native app), so you will have to replace the existing program with the new build. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the old app is based on Electron, and was quite slow.
To get started with the new WhatsApp for Mac, sign into your account by scanning the QR code displayed on the screen using WhatsApp's Menu > Linked Devices page on your mobile phone. It also prompts you to allow notifications for WhatsApp from the macOS Settings so that it can show the banners as new messages arrive. The app's interface has been redesigned, it doesn't look like the Windows version.
An important difference between the old and the new macOS app is the side-panel which has 5 tabs: Chats, Calls, Archived, Starred and Settings. The sidebar can be toggled by clicking the button above it. You can now drag and drop files to WhatsApp's window, to share media or documents with your contacts or in group chats. The Settings section in the app has been modernized as well, you can use it to manage your Privacy, Storage and Data including the media quality and network usage, etc.
WhatsApp has removed the keyboard shortcuts page that the old version had, and the legacy hotkeys don't work anymore. This is something that we may need to keep an eye on.
As for the performance, there is a very noticeable difference, the app starts instantly. I had no trouble viewing videos, images, GIFs, emojis, etc. Everything seems to work as expected, and the overall experience is quite fluid compared to the laggy mess of the old app.
One thing that needs improvement in the new app is the way it handles notifications, I couldn't get the notification banners to appear on the edge of the screen, even though I had allowed the app to show them. It does place a badge on the app's icon on the dock, which is helpful, but not as good as a proper banner.
I was impressed with the WhatsApp beta for Windows when it was launched last year, but recently the app has been rather poor in terms of performance, it becomes quite laggy and unresponsive. The problem seems to surface randomly, gets fixed in an update, and reappears again. It definitely needs to be optimized.