WhatsApp to introduce flash calls as a way of verification

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WhatsApp, Privacy Policy

Those who have had issues when it comes to verifying/logging into their WhatsApp after completing an install already know that there are two ways to verify your WhatsApp installation. There is the usual SMS verification where WhatsApp sends an SMS to your phone. For the most part, this is automatic, WhatsApp automatically detects this SMS and verifies the installation. You can also enter the code yourself.

When this fails sometimes WhatsApp offers you the call option. For as long as I can remember this has always been a manual process. WhatsApp makes a robocall to your desired number, you pick up and listen, a robot-like voice on the other end repeats a code twice and then hangs up. You then enter the code into your WhatsApp to get it verified/login.

Soon this will be an automatic process

WhatsApp is working on a feature known as flash calls. This will see the calling method become an automatic process as well. According to WABetainfo, this is who the process will work:

  • You install WhatsApp on your device as usual
  • WhatsApp then asks you to grant it access to your phone’s log in addition to the usual Make and Manage calls permissions
  • You then enter your number as usual. You will also be asked to confirm that the number you have entered is correct
  • During the next stage, you will be given an option to verify using SMS or Flash Call
  • If you opt for flash call verification your phone will receive a brief call. WhatsApp will not pick up and the call will appear in your logs as a missed call.
  • WhatsApp reads the log and confirms you are indeed the owner of the number and logs you in.

How does WhatsApp know to verify/login the right account? The trick is in the number that is used to call you. The last six digits of that number are the code much like the code that is sent via SMS. Those digits are unique and randomly generated.

What are the benefits?

First of all, before we talk about the benefits I need to mention that this feature will be available on Android only. iOS users will have to wait as usual for the feature to land and be perfected in Android first. It’s possible the feature will eventually land in iOS although that is not certain given how Apple has been cracking down on apps that request additional permissions.

Facebook and WhatsApp swear they will not use the newly acquired flash call permissions to read other numbers in your logs or for any other purposes except verification but who is to say they won’t? The best way to counter this is to revoke this permission once you have been logged in. Also, the feature is optional so you can just go with the usual SMS verification method.

The biggest draw could be the wow factor here but there are other benefits, such as providing an automatic alternative method of verification when SMS verification fails. SMS is not that reliable especially if you are roaming. Getting a call means paying premium rates in such cases but a missed call is usually cheaper or even free. It’s also cheaper for WhatsApp to make missed calls as they don’t have to pay call rates.

It would be cool if WhatsApp adds the option to force future logins to use this feature instead of SMS verification. This means that you can only login into WhatsApp using the device on which your line is installed. That would thwart account hijacking attempts that rely on SMS verification. It would also be cool if WhatsApp starts supporting RCS (Rich Communication Services).

Code for the feature has already made it’s way into the preview version of WhatsApp and it’s not clear when the feature will be unveiled to ordinary Android users of the stable version of WhatsApp.

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