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ED#156 : WhatsApp Is Moving To A Subscription Model? Don't Panic!
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ED#156 : WhatsApp Is Moving To A Subscription Model? Don't Panic!

Today, the WhatsApp team not only released a new update for the Apple iPhone, they also announced that they are moving iOS users to the subscription model. That set everyone panicking about what that meant for them.

Would they have to pay to use WhatsApp if they were early adopters who downloaded WhatsApp FOC? Would they have to pay to use WhatsApp if they purchased the app from the App Store earlier?

Well, don't panic. It's not going to affect current users of WhatsApp for iPhone, but it's not all good news either. Let us explain why.

First of all, the new subscription model isn't really new. It had already been implemented for the other platforms (Android, Windows Phone, Symbian, Blackberry). Under this model, all new users will receive free service for the first year, before they start paying $0.99 per year thereafter. This subscription is tied to the mobile number - a very important distinction, as you will soon see.

Just before this change, new users on the iOS platform can buy WhatsApp for just $0.99 and use it to register as many mobile numbers on as many iPhones as they like, as long as they are all using the same Apple ID. That changes with this new version of WhatsApp, because everyone is now converted to the subscription model, with each subscription tied to a particular mobile number.

As we mentioned earlier, this new subscription model is only going to affect new users on the iOS platform. Like users of other platforms, they will receive free service for the first year, and then they have to start paying $0.99 per year to continue using WhatsApp after that.

Current users who had either downloaded WhatsApp free, or purchased it earlier, will receive free service for the lifetime of their mobile numbers. What this means is that you do not have to pay the yearly subscription fee for as long as you maintain the same mobile number.

  • If you upgrade your iPhone and maintain your mobile number, you are safe.
  • If you change to a different service provider and maintain your mobile number, you are safe.
  • If you change to a different platform and maintain your mobile number, you are safe.

In other words, hang onto your mobile number if you wish to continue using WhatsApp for free. You will only have to start on their subscription model if you change your mobile number, or want to use WhatsApp on another mobile phone with a different number. This means it is no longer possible to install and use WhatsApp for free on multiple iPhones even if they are using the same Apple ID.

That said, most of us will agree that the service that WhatsApp provides is worth more than $0.99 a year. So if you are a new user, or have to change your mobile number, don't feel too bad about this new subscription model. Think of it as a way to thank the WhatsApp team for a job well done!

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WhatsApp's Official Statement

This is the WhatsApp team's official statement about the new subscription model for the iOS platform :

Today we released a new version of WhatsApp for iPhone. This is our first update this year and it brings a few major changes we're excited to tell you about.

First, we are updating our business model for new iPhone users going forward. As you know, we used to charge iPhone users a $.99 one time payment, while Android and other platforms had free service for the first year and paid $0.99 a year after that. From now on, we've simplified our business model so that all users on all platforms will enjoy their first year of WhatsApp service for free, and only pay $.99 per year after that. We feel that this model will allow us to become the communications service of the 21st century, and provide you the best way to stay in touch with your friends and family with no ads getting in the way. The good news for all current iPhone users is that WhatsApp will be free of charge for the rest of your life.

Second, we've added an option to backup your message history to iCloud. We spent the last six months working to make iCloud backup as simple and user friendly as possible. On your iPhone, go into 'WhatsApp Settings > Chat Settings > Chat Backup' if you want to back up your conversation history. When you reinstall the app, you will be prompted to restore from iCloud during the initialization process.

Third, since we're engineers at heart, we've introduced developer hooks into WhatsApp. We've had many other iOS developers ask us for API hooks to make interfacing with WhatsApp easy. Now you can do that. Learn more at

That's all folks. We hope you will enjoy this new release.

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