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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
Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

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!
  • Ee bhai
    Kaiko bakchodi karta h
  • Okay I love the fact that you like speaking Hindi but please don't abuse people. @nuclax -_-
  • Daniel, does next update bring ability to attach audio file?
  • Not yet. I am beta testing WhatsApp too.
  • Hmm. Ok thanks. I really hope that ability for the next update
  • when do we get to download this new update ? Y it takes so much tym ? Thy shud release today if its ready . Before few weaks also there was a new beta news n,still Tha beta is not released n today again a new beta .
  • That update should be out in few weeks. Can't say for sure... Its WhatsApp Team's decision after all.
  • They just should give us this update and then go to work for a real big update they can give us on WP8.1 Release...
  • They need to do something about the performance. Performance of the app is decreasing as time passes on
  • Yayyyyy!!
  • Not public hopefully this same add on to the app comes to the what's app most use some time in the near future looks good
  • It would be awesome if they integrated whatsap with the native messaging app or vice versa in WP 8.1 as you can have 3rd party messaging apps :D
  • Good news, thank you
  • So basically what you are saying is that if it looks pretty then noobs rate it better? Cool dat!
  • Coming soon to the coming soon phone 8.
  • Woohoo! Now just waiting for a suitable lock screen and ability to send mp3 and files. :D
  • Will this be made public only when all phones get Lumia black ?
  • Now would be a good time to download this app and stock up some rad backgrounds :D
    http://www.windowsphone.com/s?appid=2642f8a6-1cd3-4bb2-80f3-33f8e3463ee4
  • May i ask how to get the beta? 2nd question would be; Looking at the screenshots its seems faster, is it?
  • Only selected developers gets beta
  • Want option to delete multiple chats,like how we delete our mails on our wp.
  • +520
  • I'm in the beta and I can say that whatsapp for windows phones has become the best in my opinion.
  • Cant wait! Seems faster?
  • Faster and different!
  • Daniel, this is a silly update. It doesn't even look good (UI wise). Can you request them to release something useful? Like backup my whatsapp conversations to OneDrive? Restore sync between devices, again using OneDrive would be awesome.
  • This is nonsense. Its like losing your email because you switched laptops. That stupid email yourself the conversation doesn't work properly because the WP8 email app truncates the message. Can't see old conversations. This app has been buggy for years and they want to add custom backgrounds. Whooppdeedooo
  • I'd much rather someone begin on a replacement for the fact that Microsoft is ditching multi-share!  Once 8.1 comes out I'll no longer be able to post to multiple social networks simultaneously.  I'd pay good money for an app that replaces and expands that capability once Windows Phone 8.1 trashes a lot of great functionality.
  • Where did you get that? Why should WP8.1 get rid of features present now?
  • unrelated to whatsapp?
  • Does anyone else have a problem with saving images, to their phone, from whatsapp. Mine doesn't want to work :(
  • No. Mine autosaves.
  • Waiting for next update
  • id really love to see them sort the history bug, where you cant scroll more than 6 pages into a previous conversation without the app crashing. my E63 does it so well i dont see why my more advanced lumia cant.
  • YES, you can has WALLPAPERZ! Glad this one is done an over with and now they hopefully can concentrate on the important aspects of the app, namely performance and speech integration
  • I'm sorry, but that's just ugly to me.  It ruins the clean interface.
  • Great news! What else are we mmissing after this? would there finally be parity now? 
  • Great news! What else are we mmissing after this? would there finally be parity now? 
  • See, it would be less frustrating to read if you guys mentioned it in the title that it is a CLOSED beta. First getting hopes up and than in a "oh, by the way...," style crushing them.
  • Its keeps getting better!
  • Good!
  • Please add the ability to remove timestamps
  • Yes! Only ios has that; Android doesn't either (or at least it didn't the last time I had an android phone). Is it that only iPhone users have a right to privacy?))
  • Daniel, I know the whatsapp team has been working closely with Nokia to get all the various APIs they need to make this update great. With the 8.1 SDK leak, are alot of these issues that WhatsApp (and other apps) had, such as being able to access the library to pull video, potentially a thing of the past with the API opening, based on what's been leaked so far? I read the leaks but some of the more tech language can go over my head :). 
  • Why is this app skipping all the time? Used to be more fluid...and no skips!
  • Awesome! I hope they're also working on this new universal app type with WP8.1/W8.1.1 as I find myself wishing I had WhatsApp on my tablet almost every day. Not sure how the account system would work but I'm sure there must be something in combining with an MS Account. Eh, I dunno. Anyway, WhatsApp is great and all these updates are brilliant to see from an official app!
  • Whatsapp use your telephone number, how its gonna work ?
  • The same as Facebook chat I guess, you just have to bind the WA account to a Microsoft/Google/iOS account I guess and select which devices are to be synced. Shouldn't be too hard since it uses data like all other chat programs.
  • From the text in the picture: unless "hells bells" is a restaurant, I interpret it as a nickname for jimsson weed, which when ingested, gives you a 1st class ticket to the emergency room to get your stomach pumped. fun!
  • Pliz update soon
  • So stuff remaining for me
    1. audio file transfer
    2. Turn off that stupid vibration.
  • That vibration sucks sometimes..soooo annoying
  • I really dont care for the backgrounds, yeah a lot of people want them but form me all I want is to be able to open a conversation and for it to show me the first unread msg! specially in groups.. hate to be scrolling trying to find the first unread msg :(
  • Love it, it was one of the things that I really wanted and kept asking them about it ..thanks whatsapp, we love u
  • Waiting for new update
  • I would love to have a option to send full resolution photos in Whatsapp, especially high end Lumias.
  • True,, i hate that too,, I can't read msgs from groups cuz of that scrolling problem
  • I wana sign up for the beta version.
    How to get it??
  • I give detailed instructions on how you can sign up in the article at the end! Go and get it now!
  • One problem I have with this app is whenever I try to forward a image to someone it doesn't send the image which I selected but an earlier image gets posted.
  • Ppl don't be exited . This features we wont be getting till release of 8.1 sdocelebrate e
  • Is there option available for Searching text within a conversation ?? like android version.
  • More than anything what I want from whatsapp is to show "online/last seen" status on pinned contact tile. And second, save/send mp3 files. Disable autosave pictures (said this before)
  • Wow, a better way to make WhatsApp app drain our battery faster.
  • What I'd like to see from whatsapp is under the hood battery performance improvements. Currently it's a battery hog.
  • I still have problems with getting whatsapp messages on my L520. Only when I launch the app does barrage of messages start rolling in. What is the likely solution to this problem?
  • I have no idea what's the big deal about chat wallpapers..
  • Beta version mat dikhao yar.....original WhatsApp ko update karo plzzzz
  • osea no se cual es la idea de publicar esto si esta aplicacion no es para el publico es logico que te van a preguntar 
  • Very gorgeous blog for background pics <a href="http://www.thepictureland.com">Background Pictures</a>
  • is the crash problem solved now??