It's now easier to check out the latest WhatsApp features on Android without having to download an APK, as a new beta testing program just went live on Google Play.

Up until now, WhatsApp Android users who wanted to try out new features before they were ready for public rollout had to download and install an APK file from the company's website. The process was not that complicated to begin with, but the new beta testing program makes it even easier to get an early taste of upcoming treats.

Rather than hosting beta builds of its APK on its own website, the new WhatsApp beta testing app is now available on Google Play, allowing anyone to join the party with little to no hassle.

"WhatsApp Inc. has invited you to a testing programme for an unreleased version of the WhatsApp Messenger app," says WhatsApp in its beta program's description.

"As a tester, you'll receive an update that includes a testing version of the WhatsApp Messenger app. Please note that testing versions may be unstable or have a few bugs."

By making it easier to sign up for new trial versions of the software, WhatsApp could significantly expand its reach and appeal to a broader range of testers. For WhatsApp, meanwhile, this more streamlined process should make it easier to distribute the new features and releases it comes up with.

This, in turn, could make WhatsApp more competitive against rival apps such as Telegram, which recently topped 100 million monthly active users.

WhatsApp itself has an even more impressive user base, with more than 1 billion users worldwide, and that will likely grow even further with the company's recent decision to drop its $1 annual fee.

On the other hand, it remains to be seen what other paths the Facebook-owned service will follow next. It recently came to light that Facebook Messenger will receive ads, and there's a good chance that Facebook may eventually implement the same strategy on WhatsApp as well.

For now, however, WhatsApp is ad-free and it's among the most popular messaging platforms out there. A recent update of WhatsApp for Android added a ton of new emojis and things are looking up. 

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