How to use WhatsApp: A step-by-step beginner’s guide

If you have gotten a new phone and have been searching for a way on how to use a WhatsApp account to start using the latest WhatsApp app on your mobile phone, then keep reading as we guide you on the steps to register a new Whatsapp account.

How to use WhatsApp

WhatsApp boasts more than 2 billion users worldwide, but if you don’t live in one of the countries where it’s popular, you may have never used it. Its $16 billion purchase by Facebook in 2014 turned some heads (and raised some privacy concerns), but it still offers many advantages over its competitors. If those two reasons aren’t enough to convince you to learn how to use WhatsApp today, perhaps the fact that it’s completely free of charge will seal the deal.

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If you’re new to the party, the world’s most popular chat app can be a bit overwhelming. To help you get started, we put together this beginner’s guide on using WhatsApp, from installing the app to chatting with friends and family in groups.

What is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a free chat app that launched at the dawn of the smartphone era in 2009. It wasn’t until 2015 that it became the most popular communication app worldwide, but nowadays, it’s virtually ubiquitous in most of Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.

The popularity of WhatsApp is because it’s free, it doesn’t have ads, and of course, it has a huge existing user base. It also features end-to-end encryption, so your messages are private and secure. However, security policy changes in early 2021 mean the app can share some of your data with Facebook. Learn more about that issue in our WhatsApp privacy explainer.

In addition to standard one-on-one and group chats, you can also do voice or video calls free of charge, even internationally. Remember that this will eat up your data when not connected to Wi-Fi.

How to install WhatsApp

The first step in learning how to use WhatsApp is installing the app, and you can do it in just a few minutes. The app is completely free and only requires a phone number and a mobile device to sign up.

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  • Install the app from the Play Store (Android) or App Store (iPhone).
  • Launch the app and approve the requested permissions.
  • Enter your phone number and tap Confirm.
  • Enter the verification code received via SMS (WhatsApp may do this automatically).
  • Import existing contacts into the app (optional).

That’s all there is to it. You’re now ready to start chatting with any of your contacts that have WhatsApp installed. You can also manually add contacts to WhatsApp if you don’t want to import your entire contact list.

How to set up your WhatsApp profile

Before you start chatting, there is one more step you may want to take. Creating a profile will help your contacts know who you are, even if they don’t have your number saved in their contacts. You can add a picture, name, and a short bio.

  • Tap the three dots in the top-right corner of the app and tap Settings.
  • Tap your name at the top of the screen.
  • To change your picture, tap the camera icon and select a photo.
  • To change your name, tap the pencil icon next to Name.
  • Enter or adjust your bio by tapping the pencil icon next to About.

You can also change your phone number from this screen, and the process is the same as when you first set up your account. It will send a verification code via SMS, and once confirmed, WhatsApp will transfer all of your chats and contacts to that number.

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How to start a chat on WhatsApp

Now that your profile is set, it’s time to get to the task at hand: chatting! The first time you open the app, you won’t have any chats open, but you can start a new conversation by tapping on the chat bubble in the bottom right.

Select the contact you want to chat with from the list. If you already have a previous chat with that contact, it will open that instead of a brand new chat. All that’s left is to type your message at the bottom of the screen. After entering your text, tap the arrow icon alongside the text box to send it.

You can also send pictures or files on WhatsApp by tapping the + icon next to the chatbox. WhatsApp has a built-in camera app, but it’s better to use your normal camera app to take the picture and select it in the gallery to send. This will give you more editing options, and generally results in higher-quality photos.

To start a group chat, tap the same chat bubble as before, then tap New Group. You can then select the members you want to invite, enter a name for the group, and start chatting.

There are many additional features available, so check out our list of WhatsApp tips and tricks for more information.

How to use gifs on WhatsApp

Sending gifs on WhatsApp should be a simple task, but the exact steps are far from obvious. To make matters worse, they differ between iPhones and Android phones.

To send a gif on Android, you first need to open a chat and tap on the smiley face next to the text box. Then, tap the gif text at the bottom of the screen to see a selection of the current most popular gifs. To search for more gifs, tap the magnifying glass at the bottom left and enter your keywords. Once you’ve found and selected your gif, all that’s left is to press send.

It’s worth noting that the process may be easier depending on which brand of phone you have, or if you have a different keyboard installed. Often you can tap the gif text above the keyboard instead of the complicated process above.

To send a gif on an iPhone, open a chat and tap the plus icon in the bottom left. Then, select Photo and Video Library from the menu and tap the magnifying glass icon in the bottom left to search. Once selected, tap send.

How to call using WhatsApp

One of the most useful features when using WhatsApp internationally is the ability to make phone calls. Unlike standard international voice calls, WhatsApp calls use your internet connection rather than your phone line, so they’re completely free (barring any data overage charges when not on Wi-Fi).

To start a phone call on WhatsApp, all you need to do is open a chat window and tap the phone icon in the top right. If it’s a group, you can even select multiple people to call simultaneously.

The steps for making a video call on WhatsApp are virtually identical. Just tap the video camera icon next to the phone icon. It’s a great alternative to FaceTime, especially for Android users.

How to use WhatsApp on your computer

If you prefer typing on a keyboard (or don’t like looking at your phone all day), you can also use WhatsApp from a computer. You’ll need to keep your phone nearby, but it can be a convenient way to chat or send files from your PC or Mac.

  • On your computer browser, navigate to web.whatsapp.com.
  • Open WhatsApp on your phone, tap the three dots in the top right, then WhatsApp Web.
  • Tap the plus icon at the top right.
  • Point your phone camera at the QR code on your computer screen.
  • WhatsApp should instantly log in on your computer.

If you don’t want to use a browser, you can also install the WhatsApp PC client directly on your computer. If you think someone is using WhatsApp Web without your permission, you can remove access from your phone by following the first two steps above.

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