This story was originally published 2021/04/23
7:02am PDTon Apr 23, 2021 and last updated 2021/05/22
11:44am PDTon May 22, 2021.
Some people speak faster than others. Some listen faster than others. If the discrepancy gets on your nerves, specifically when you’re listening to a voice message someone left you in WhatsApp, you might want to hop on the beta channel. The option to increase playback speed (as seen in some podcast managers) is now rolling out to beta users.
The updated feature was spotted and recorded by several different users and confirmed by third parties, using a build of the app retrieved from the standard Play Store beta channel. To activate variable playback, tap the “1.0x” label next to the progress bar in an active voice message. 1.0x, 1.5x, and 2.0x playback speeds are available, which is less granularity than we usually see for this type of feature — but hey, that’s why it’s a beta. There’s also no option to slow down playback, which I know some people with hearing difficulty would appreciate.
The variable playback speed function seems to be rolling out to users slowly; two different Android Police testers were unable to access it even using the latest build (22.214.171.124), released yesterday. It was visible to at least some people more than a month ago, so this appears to be a rather slow deployment indeed. That indicates a server-side change (cue groans from the audience), so don’t be surprised if you don’t see the option immediately. Hopefully it will make its way to the general release before too long.
Other changes in the latest beta include bigger image and video previews, and the disappearing messages option is available for all users in group chats by default.
Server-side switch appears to be disabled now
According to a new changelog posted by WABetaInfo, the playback speed controls were briefly activated in the beta via server-side switch, then disabled. Those who were previously able to access the option apparently cannot now. It’s not known why the switch was made, or when it might return.
According to an updated post, the feature is once again appearing for at least some users on the latest beta build. It seems to be more widespread than the earlier, aborted rollout. To get the best chance at seeing the playback speed feature, make sure you’re running beta version 126.96.36.199 or later.
The feature is now available in WhatsApp’s latest stable version, as per the official changelog:
Although it’s officially available, some users might need to wait a little longer to get the feature, as the new version seems to be gradually rolling out globally.