WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service, is giving its over 1 billion users yet another reason to keep coming back to this program multiple times every day: live location sharing.

WhatsApp, naturally, already gives you the option to talk about your existing location with other users, but that’s a static, one-time share. They key difference with live location sharing is that it is dynamic and updates your location in real time, even if WhatsApp is in the background.

“Live location is a way to share your location in a conversation along with the participants in that chat will then be able to see your real-time location as it updates on a map. [It’s] short-term in nature, it’s limited in duration,” Zafir Khan, Product Manager at WhatsApp told Gadgets 360 while giving a demo of the feature earlier this past week.

Your location is shared in the chat degree, which means that you may share your live location in a one-on-one WhatsApp conversation or a group conversation.

How does it function?
When you try to share your live location in a WhatsApp conversation – by simply tapping the Attach icon on Android, or the Plus icon to the iPhone – you will be prompted to choose the duration of time for which the share will likely be active. You may just choose from one of the preset options – 15 minutes, 1 hour (default option), and 8 hours – and, optionally, include a remark. Khan said that these durations were picked based on the usual scenarios in which individuals are most likely to utilize WhatsApp live location sharing. Users can still choose to talk about a one-time, static location if they prefer.

You may manually stop sharing live location information within a conversation at any given time. A new option in your Account Privacy settings will give you an overview of all WhatsApp chats you are sharing your live location in at the time.

Live location stocks will show up in WhatsApp chats as thumbnails that show the initial location of the consumer and also a ‘Live until’ time. Tapping ‘View live location’ will take you to a map view where it is possible to observe the current location of all the users who are currently sharing their location in that conversation. It’s possible to switch to a Satellite/ Terrain view of this map if you desire, and also see live traffic information as an overlay, which seems pretty convenient if you are waiting for someone.

It is possible to tap a title on the list or tap on a profile picture to the map to zoom in to the location of a particular person where you will also observe the margin of error (such as “Accurate to 50 metres”) to their location. You can tap the little (I) button next to the consumer to bring a pop-up which lets you communicate with them using WhatsApp in different ways.

In a WhatsApp group, it is possible to bring up the group info and watch all users that are sharing their location with the team at the point in time. This will be particularly helpful in busier classes, since you won’t need to scroll up and try to find the message where the consumer originally shared their location.

“We hope that it provides utility in these scenarios where people are coordinating and meeting up in the actual world. We give users control so that they could stop sharing in any time and sharing a live location is just as secure as sending any other communications within WhatsApp in that it is end-to-end encrypted,” Khan said.

How does it stack up against the competition?
WhatsApp’s live location sharing implementation is really similar to Telegram’s, down to the choice of those three durations the consumers need to pick from. Facebook’s own Messenger service enables you to choose locations with customers in real time, but just for one hour at one time.

Apple’s iMessage lets you share your location with users to get one hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely, which is excellent for sharing your location at any give time with family and/ or close friends.

This is exactly what Telegram’s implementation of live location sharing looks like.

Google Maps – while not a messaging service, is possibly the app you’re most likely to be using when driving up to meet someone – added real time location sharing features earlier this year. Google Maps users can share their location with others for anywhere between 1 hour and ‘permanently’, though Maps uses links to discuss your location, which can then be shared further with other people without your knowing, raising privacy issues.

We asked Khan if WhatsApp has plans to bring the ability to permanently share your location with certain connections, and he replied in the negative.

“For now, we’re really focused on the short term sharing usage case. We think it addresses a lot of common challenges that people run into when they’re in a chat scenario – we have no plans to expand that into long-term sharing at this time,” he said.

“However, this is software plus we are always listening to feedback from customers, so that is something which we will continually evaluate,” Khan added.

Impact on battery life?
We requested Khan if WhatsApp users that actively utilize the new feature can anticipate an adverse impact on their phone’s battery life. He transferred to allay such anxieties.

“Our engineering team invested a significant amount of time optimising battery and performance for this particular feature,” he explained. “We have special techniques to help conserve your battery when sharing live location. Therefore it takes into account a number of different factors, such as how long you have been sharing your live location, whether someone on the other end who you’re sharing with is really looking at the map, your current battery level.”

“We take into account these factors and many others to determine how frequently to get a location update from the phone because by being intelligent about that we’re able to assist conserver some battery,” he added. “We are just launching this feature so this will be something which we also continuously optimise over time as we get more use of this feature.”

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When can you get WhatsApp live location sharing?
Live location sharing is currently rolling out to Android and iOS consumers and it will be more “globally available within the coming days”. If you’re using WhatsApp Web and someone shares a live location with you, then you will be shown a placeholder that will indicate that the live location can be observed on the phone.

Khan believes the feature will find wide traction among WhatsApp’s large user base. WhatsApp has more than 1 billion daily active users, and more than 1.3 billion monthly active users.

“If we decide to build a feature, it has to solve an issue that is experienced by more than a billion people. And the problem that we’re looking at with live location is what you might call the rendezvous problem or the problem of meeting up in the actual world. Whether you are sharing a sail, or letting loved ones know you’re safe, or meeting up with friends, these are experiences that are very common to us all.”