WhatsApp beta finally gets custom backgrounds for chats on Windows Phone

WhatsApp. Next to Facebook, it’s your favorite app that you love to use – and that you love to complain about. Luckily for us, the WhatsApp team is hard at work at making their premier chat service top notch on Windows Phone. Unfortunately, what we’re about to share is part of their private beta, so the public version is possibly a few days – or weeks – out.

But you folks love teases, so here’s an exclusive one for you.

The beta for WhatsApp, version 376, just went out in the last few hours and it has two big changes that an anonymous tipster has passed on to us. One is a new Settings screen. Now, the Settings page is much cleaner and in line with the Modern UI principles. It certainly looks more organized. But that’s small potatoes stuff.

The big new feature that is coming is custom backgrounds for chat notifications. Found under Settings, users will be able to head into Chat Settings > Background to choose any image of their liking. Options include:

  • Take a photo
  • Choose from albums
  • Search web
  • Delete

That appears to be a fairly robust selection. In search, a user can use a built in engine to pull up images based off of search, and then select it as it their choice. Once you chose an image, it will be ‘set’ as the universal chat window for all contacts.

Overall, it’s a simple feature but one many of you have been clamoring for, so with that, you now know it’s only a matter of time before it hits the public version for all to download.

Combined with Media Autodownload settings and custom notification sounds, the next version of WhatsApp should be a doozy.

Note: WhatsApp beta is a private beta, so we are not sharing the link as it would not work for any non-listed members. There currently is no public way to sign up for the beta, so please don't ask.

Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

226 Comments
  • Good to see updates coming for WhatsApp ^_^
  • Yaaahhoooooo ooooo..!!!!
  • Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy
  • Yahoo!!!!
  • Google!!!!
  • Bing!!!!
  • Rediff!!!
  • Baidu :)
  • Ask! :D
  • Babylon ;D
  • Aol.
  • Lycos?
  • How do i get the beta?
  • There is no public sign up, so you can't.
  • *heart slowly rips in half* lol
  • Lool nice
  • Who do I contact to get in .;)
  • Dont aks the man said smh..
  • You see that winky face. That indicates I was doing something in jest. I'm already actually in the beta.
  • Seems faster
  • How? Have you tried it? Are you a beta member too?
  • It was sarcasm.
  • More like an internal joke to me, isn't it?
  • Oh ok. I have rotten sense of humor :D
  • Sheldon much?
  • Incidentally yes... Way too much hehe
  • Hahaha.
  • We are getting frequent updates, thats good. But why we can't get all the missing features in one update? Is it API restrictions in wp8 make whatsapp feature parity with other platforms? What extend of information we have right now with WP8.1 leak to acclerate whatsapp team to fill the parity?
  • Sorry to ask, what what features are missing from other platforms? I'm not trying to be snarky, but am genuinely curious.
  • Custom alert tones, while attaching ability select the part of video, crop a picture, delete all chat, media download on off, network status.  We need also instant resume, attaching a mp3 (I dont know other platform having this, android its not there) and solve the auto termination while scrolling previous messages bug.
  • Yes, the auto termination while scrolling previous messages bug is very irritating and has never been addressed till date. I'm not sure whether the Whatsapp developers are still unaware of this or it is a limitation of the Windows Phone 8 OS.
  • Any idea when it will get fixed? Seriously, fixing that bug should be the top priority for the developers rather than custom backgrounds and custom notifications *_*
  • Media download on/off is coming next for sure. It's in the beta already. The other features, we cannot tell... except this one: I was looking the strings for translation in their website (I'm Brazilian, so let's translate it! haha) and found this: Are you sure you want to clear messages older than 30 days in ALL conversations? Are you sure you want to clear messages older than 6 months with {0}? HOWEVER, the true champ was this one: Sit tight while we optimize your chat storage. We hope you'll agree that a better WhatsApp experience awaits. They are working on it, for sure. They will change the way that to keep the chat, so, odds are that we're going to see some much better user experience. Today, it's so slow that hurts... Just for comparison: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoPMGdEqMEA
  • And network usage?
  • Usually it works great, but the last few days I've had messages not send, I've received messages 5mins after the app shows they were sent, and the notifications have been spotty at times. Hopefully this us just a hiccup in their system.
  • Same.
  • ^This! I thought my connection was failing or something wrong happened with it.
  • Got same problem. I thought it started after GDR3+Black update, I guess I was wrong then. L928
  • Same here. Not a WP problem. Same happenee on my GS4, Lumia 925 and my sisters iPhone 5... server problems.
  • Mine has been on point since the last update. been getting everything on time
  • Can I use your picture Mr Daniel Rubino as my chat background when this get released? Pls confirm here.
  • Daniel is feeling shy lol
  • More like awkward, but sure, lol
  • Lol u gay? Why would u set a guy's pic as a background?
  • Seems that Daniel has a nice pretender lol
  • it's not gay. I'm putting Kendrick Lamar as my background because he is my favorite rapper. Am I gay? nope.
  • If you're a guy then that's very weird..
  • Bitwise = Daniel ?
  • Oh yea its gay when u dont write No Homo, oops. I also have an altar for Daniel and walls with all his snarky replies written on it. In cursive! :p
  • Hmm interesting....
  • He is asking whether the user he is talking to their profile pic will appear in background,something like nokia music,that will be cool eh
  • Great to see frequent updates :)
  • Also, redesigned settings page!
  • Also, in the article ...
  • Lol, true. I was so excited I couldn't read.
  • Let you off this time ;-)
  • you never let people off for commenting under an article that have not even read it. this is a no go
  • I was feeling charitable on account of it being Valentines Day ...
  • In the future I want to be able to send files mp3 and mp4
  • My guess is that's next.
  • Yay... Backgrounds.... How exciting
  • Been waiting to seee a WhatsApp related article here :P hope this comes sooon to the store.and hopefully with all these advanced features they make the app more snappier,faster,less buggy :P that shouldve come first :/
  • +520  
  • I hope you can still choose to have a plain black background easily... This is something I like about WhatsApp rather than the terrible preset backgrounds that have been put into Viber.   I'm just hanging out for the custom notification tones in WhatsApp!
  • Oh of course, backgrounds are optional.
  • There are many other bugs like it crashes while scrolling previous msgs, while uploading videos sometimes, pic takes 3 secs to open as it should open quickly after getting downloaded.
  • Exactlyyyy.first they should get rid of those bugs :/especially the force close thing.irritating bug :-(
  • Yeah and will there be custom tones in this update or just the chat backgrounds option??
  • Custom tones will be present :-)hope it comes soon :D
  • And telegram??
  • So can we choose a custom notification for Whatsapp total or a different notification is possible for each chat?
  • Total or group chats.
  • Skydrive support isn't back yet?
  • I hope this update comes out before WP8.1 and does not take so long to be available to public.
  • Hope each chat member in a group chat will have different color for their chat..
  • ikr? it's difficult to read names sometimes
  • Yes, we need this!
  • Greatest news!
  • Please turn off auto saving pictures. Or just bring back that function (auto/manual saving). I get a lot of garbage from groups
  • That's already coming. Follow the links.
  • Daniel Rubino
    I loved that line when you said
    Its you favourite app that you love to use and love to complain :D
  • I really don't understand why there are so many complaints about WhatsApp. It has always worked fine for me.
  • Ur lucky
  • I would love to see a whatsapp update with different colors for individual members of a group chat (like on android)
  • No, Every watsapp have their own different UI and uniqueness. The iOS has different good look, android has its typical white and green watsapp look and Windows has its own plane look. The Windows look of watsapp is so far the different,simple, easy to acess. Hence its better to have different designs
  • Actually with the new update you'll be able to see different colors in a group chat!
  • Nah, give US avatars
  • Feel really sorry for developers on WP who tried so hard to bring features that are the same on other platform. Now with the new APIs in the SDK, Microsoft is being a scumbag not to release it in the first place and made all the hard work done by the devs means nothing
  • What do you mean. The WP8 APIs work fine on WP8.1 they just added a new format to it
  • hope i can disable them.. to me it's just   a waste of battery(i have ativ s, so black actually helps..)
  • U can
  • Glad to hear about the addition of backgrounds. Finally out chat window will start looking lively. :)
  • Finally! Now if only we could get Windows Phone 8 to do that on the start screen and other screen, at least on the app list.
  • Will the app crash while,loading previous msgs?
  • Yes it is the problem which should be address .
  • Urgh they shld first remove that *vibration* in d app
  • That brought a smile to my face. Hopefully wont have to wait too long now.
  • Beautiful!!
  • What is this beta version? Where will i get this from? Cause whatsapp which is available on stores has no updates yet.
  • Not everyone is allows for beta and hence u cannot get beta app. Read the notes part in the article
  • READ. 
    THE.
    ARTICLE.

    :D
  • RTA ;-)
  • Good we are near to other mobile os now.But I hope,this is not all.I still want the chat to show earlier message without crashing as it typically does.It annoyingly crashes when I recieve a lot of messages.Hope they fix this in upcoming updates.
  • Yes. This should be fixed 1st. They r just ignoring it. I'm courious, even developers are aware of this bug.!!
  • Does this private beta still ask for the CAP_APPOINTMENTS capability? Or did the NSA drop that requirement and can begin contemplating actually installing a version of Whatsapp on my Lumia 920 in the future? A chat application has no business nosing around in my calendar data...
  • The custom backgrounds feature is much appreciated but needs improvement in receiving notifications.
  • I'm in the beta program too. Daniel maybe you say that it is for wp7.8 because I'm still with my lumia 900 and get the update for the beta too
  • So it means it comes for 7.8 too?
  • Will the custom tone option work on the amber phones or we have to update 1st to download the new version of whatsapp??---lumia 620..no black update yet..
  • You will need the Black update as support for custom tones comes only with that.
  • Will the whatsapp update come only after the black update??
  • No, but with you dont have black update, just de custom tones doesnt work.
  • I really like WhatsApp. Used by most people I know but it could be more and the app we have not the best. Just let someone like Rudy if not him to build a new app from ground up with everything that 8.1 OS will allow.
  • Thanks GOD!! Btw, Happy Valentine day guys!! :3
  • I can't see why custom backgrounds are so important to people. People have even rated the app down a star or two due to a feature which in no way is related to the core of the app and is pointless.
  • It may be 'pointless' in terms of function and core app features, but in terms of opinion it can mean a lot to people. Some just don't like staring at a wall of messages with a black backdrop, and would prefer some visual enhancement like on iOS and Android...
  • A shining example of how Microsoft's modern UI and a background image can co-exist. Next is to roll out a background image for the Start screen in 8.1.
  • There are more examples by Microsoft itself. Look at Rooms Chat backgrounds, look at music and video hub, look at photo hub, look at store. All these have custom backgrounds in a way. They still do not highlight contents many times. They do fail. Plain background never fails.
  • +920
  • Shining? Are we looking at the same thing? Looks terrible. Do I need some new glasses?
  • There's a bug they haven't fix till now for using the camera. The photo result is somehow distorted with funky ratio.
  • ^ This. When I take a photo in 16:9 it squeezes it down to 4:3
  • exactly!
  • I have developer account. How to get whatsapp beta ?
  • U cant
  • At last a whatsapp app
  • I guess unofficial beta version of telegram is way much better than WhatsApp official on wp8, migram allows custom tone for each individual user as well as group.
  • I hope they do these: 1- fix the crashes happend with Lumia 1520. 2- support 1080p screens. 3- backup chats on SD card.
  • Agree. Number 3 & 2 are far more important
  • As of number1: I have Lumia 1520, and Whatsapp crashes alot, its like 10 times per a day when scrolling up in group chats, or moveing from chat to another,While my brother's Lumia 920 none, even in my sister's Lumia 620 it doesn't crash at all just few lags   And number 3: in WP8.1 SDK leaks we will be able to install apps on SD card
  • No 3 is already there!
  • And how can I do that now? My Whatsapp version is 2.11.356.0
  • While they are adding these gimmicks can someone please please please tell them to remove that horrible vibration that sucks out any battery I may be saving? You know the one that comes everytime you are in chat and someone msgs you?
  • I'd like an option to turn this off too
  • Gosh. I tried it. So awesome.
  • Finally the most stupid and requested (at the same time! lol) feature is arriving. What I want is sending audio and video from the phone that isn't registered in that moment, but choosing the piece i want to send, for videos only the initial piece isn't so good
    Also personalized notification sounds, I don't want the standard ones that are arriving, i want to use MY sounds
  • I want my sounds too. Not a predefined list.
  • Finally! Lovely! Can you set individual backgrounds for contacts?
  • No. Just to all chats. RTA.
  • 2nd pic in settings they have given notifications tones
  • when will come the update Public?
  • Who needs BBM when we have whatsapp......
  • me! channels are tempting on BBM and the location sharing is superb but it's not coming to Windows Phone anytime soon
  • Will come BES is confirmed on WP. Lets see at build about it.
  • Why all the usefull features coming to beta ??? Why not in the actual whatsapp ??
  • Because creating a custom background is so extremely difficult to make it has to be beta tested for a month first.
  • hehe.
  • Alternate chat bubble colors anytime soon? Is really confusing when all bubles are having the same color in a chat group.
  • Its still very buggy. Crashes very often on my L520!
  • When you send or receive an image the preview thumbnail should be full bubble sized without bubble around it like in Android. It looks so much more tight.
    Oh and scrolling back to history must be fixed!
    Also the title name should be way smaller so you can see more bubbles!
  • Hey i m not able to see update in my whats app (india) L620
  • Abhi nhi aaya h bhai
  • Aaega rukhna padega 1 hafta shyd
  • Shut up.
  • Lol...just lol!