At this point, a lot of people worldwide use WhatsApp as their main texting app. Needless to say, this makes WhatsApp host to a lot of personal information. Apple users have had the option to lock down their WhatsApp and use Face ID as an additional authentication method. Android users, on the other hand, have no such luck. Currently, one has to rely on third-party apps to prevent unauthorized people from accessing WhatsApp on your device. This changes as of today, as WhatsApp users on Android can lock their conversations behind a fingerprint. According to WhatsApp's official blog post:
Earlier this year, we rolled out Touch ID and Face ID for iPhone to provide an extra layer of security for WhatsApp users. Today we’re introducing similar authentication, allowing you to unlock the app with your fingerprint, on supported Android phones. To enable it, tap Settings > Account > Privacy > Fingerprint lock. Turn on Unlock with fingerprint, and confirm your fingerprint.
The feature allows WhatsApp users to hide their conversations behind the biometric authentication. It doesn’t block calls, but it does hide messages and other logs. Users can also set a timer on the automatic lock to prevent the fingerprint dialog from appearing every time they open up the application.
Too little, too late?
Short answer: yes. Fingerprint authentication has been a thing on Android for the better part of the decade, along with APIs that let developers integrate it into apps as an added layer of security. It isn't clear as to why WhatsApp waited this long before giving its users an option to lock their data behind an additional layer of security. At this point, anyone who wanted to lock up WhatsApp has already downloaded a third-party alternative that also works with other applications.
Some OEMs such as Huawei have taken it a step further and added a native App Locker to their Android forks. Besides, with the fingerprint sensor gradually disappearing from some flagship devices such as the Pixel 4, WhatsApp's move is nothing short of obsolete. It is unclear if Pixel 4 users will be able to substitute their fingerprint with the devices' Face Unlock, and WhatsApp is yet to issue a statement on the matter.