Finally, the one WhatsApp feature we all want is coming

Are you a voice note sender? (Picture: Getty)

When WhatsApp launched voice notes in August 2013, they quickly became both a curse and a blessing.

Suddenly, catching up on all your messages could be done while cooking dinner or walking to the train, chatting away to update friends and family on everything going on in your life.

But for people on the receiving end, a four-minute long voice note could be about as welcome as another England penalty shoot-out.

Firstly, you might be somewhere not particularly conducive for staring vacantly while listening to your phone – a date, on the bus without headphones or seconds before making your local am-dram debut – leaving you in a torturous limbo, knowing there’s gossip on your phone but it’s out of reach.

Secondly, that four-minute voice note demands you stop what you’re doing for the same duration to pay attention – it’s much easier to multitask while sending a note than listen to one.

And finally, there’s also the issue of then having to remember every snippet of information which warrants a response, adding an extra administrative burden none of us need in 2024.

Voice notes can share a lot of information – which you then have to remember and reply to (Picture: Getty)

But now, an update could offer the best of both worlds – voice note transcriptions.

WABetaInfo, a website dedicated to all the latest from the Meta-owned app, has reported some beta users have seen the nifty function pop up in the latest Android update, 2.24.15.5, and we’re celebrating (provided it’s also released for iOS).

It seems the feature will work for both outgoing and incoming messages, and at the moment works for five languages – English, Spanish, Portuguese (available in Brazil so far), Russian and Hindi.

WhatsApp is always keen to stress its privacy credentials, and so to keep the contents of voice notes safe, the feature requires an additional data package to be downloaded – which keeps the messages and their transcriptions on the device, rather than using the cloud.

A blessing (Picture: WABetaInfo)

Writing on the site, the WABetaInfo team said: ‘Transcribing voice notes enhances the accessibility of the app, as it significantly improves the user experience for those with hearing impairments. By converting voice messages into text, these users can easily engage in conversations with voice notes that they might otherwise miss. 

‘In addition, transcriptions are beneficial in noisy environments where listening to audio messages is complicated. Users can read the transcribed text instead, ensuring they stay informed and can respond appropriately without needing to listen to the original audio.’

And they raise another useful point – transcripts make the voice notes searchable at a later date, long after you’ve forgotten either what was said or when.

The days of listening to long voice notes could be over (Picture: Getty)

‘Transcriptions provide a quick reference even through searching the voice note later, enabling users to find and review the content of voice notes without having to replay the audio,’ they said.

‘This feature also offers convenience to users who receive lengthy voice notes, as it allows them to quickly read the transcriptions instead of having to listen to the entire audio message, enabling them to understand the content more efficiently.’

It’s probably a terrible reflection on 21st century life and society that listening to a long voice note is seen as a terrible chore – but when we’re constantly bombarded, day and night, by communication in myriad forms, surely making one medium a tiny bit simpler isn’t the worst idea?

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