Chats with friends or family remain securely hidden behind the end-to-end encryption, the parent company Facebook has confirmed. It’s a small change, but one that is paving the way for Facebook to generate more revenue with WhatsApp, which used to charge all users a small annual subscription fee to cover its costs. Facebook dropped this model when it took over the company in 2014.
So if you want to try any app other than WhatsApp, here are some of the best alternatives out there right now.
Signal publishes its code online, which sounds like a vulnerability but actually makes it more secure
Signal (iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, Linux)
When it comes to WhatsApp alternatives, Signal is usually the first suggestion. That’s because it has a pretty strict stance on data protection – not only is it end-to-end encrypted like WhatsApp, but its code is open source. This means that everyone can question their practices and make suggestions. Unlike WhatsApp, which requires users to trust Facebook to be true to its word (and not make any honest mistakes), privacy professionals can review Signal’s code themselves, suggest improvements, and then re-check that the company did so the promised optimizations.
Because of the open source nature of Signal, Signal is one of the most trusted and secure messaging apps in the world. Whistleblower Edward Snowden previously announced that he is using the app as well as Twitter inventor Jack Dorsey.
However, this ironclad security does not mean that signal users lose functionality. When you first open the app, you’ll find a very similar selection of features to WhatsApp, including group chats, voice messages, and video calling with up to eight participants, GIFs, stickers, and more. Best of all, Signal is completely free to use. The app is operated by an independent nonprofit that relies on donations, so you can support Signal with as much as you can afford.
Best of all? In contrast to WhatsApp, Signal has an official iPad app!
Threema is a pretty compelling option, but you have to pay for the privilege
Threema (iOS, Android, online)
If you’re serious about improving your privacy, Threema is a great place to start. At $ 2.99, this isn’t the cheapest option, but it’s still quite a small price to pay for backing up all of your text messages, videos, voice messages, and files. Unlike WhatsApp, Threema lets you chat anonymously so you don’t have to give your phone number or email address to the company when you set up an account.
Instead, the chat app randomly generates a Threema ID when you use the app. That way, friends and family can connect with you within the app. Better still, Threema does not display advertisements and does not collect any information from its users. Everything is protected with end-to-end encryption, including video calls, files, and even status updates (which is definitely not the case with all messaging services).
Threema, which is designed, built and hosted in Switzerland, doesn’t skimp on features. In addition to the usual text messages, voice and video calls, there is also secure file sharing, group chats and lists to send messages to multiple users at the same time. Thanks to the secure online portal, you can send and receive messages on your smartphone, tablet and in any web browser.
If you want to use Telegram you have to activate the secret mode
Telegram Messenger (iOS, Apple Watch, Android, MacOS, Windows, Linux, Online)
Telegram is another hugely popular alternative to WhatsApp that has some pretty solid security features. The bottom line, however, is that you need to make some changes to the settings in order to really get the most out of this app. This is because Telegram does not use end-to-end encryption by default. Without changes, your messages will be stored on the company’s servers, which is not ideal. Thanks to the activation of the secret mode, the end-to-end encryption is activated for all communication.
In addition, messages are only saved on your phone. And when someone decides they want to withdraw a message, it will be deleted from all the devices that received the text. You can also set expiration times for messages so that you don’t have to remember to delete each text again. These will automatically disappear from all devices when the timer reaches 00:00.
The telegram can be downloaded free of charge. The company promises, “We won’t sell ads or introduce subscription fees.”
Like WhatsApp, Telegram is not open source, so its code has not been reviewed by security researchers like Signal. However, it also doesn’t belong to Facebook, which has been implicated in a number of privacy and data scandals, including artificially manipulating its users’ newsfeeds to see if people’s exposure to a flood of positive or negative stories and status updates could affect user sentiments in the real world.
Telegram has some pretty solid features too, including stickers, audio memos, group chats, GIFs, and more. There are even photo and video editing tools built right into the messaging app. This allows you to make last minute changes before sending them to your friends and family.
WhatsApp introduces the new “Carts” function in the app
Apple has been vehemently defending its users’ privacy … but don’t expect to be able to notify friends on Android
iMessage (iOS, macOS)
Apple’s iMessage service is available on all Apple devices, which means that it is pretty much useless for those who want to chat with friends on Android or Windows devices. However, this isn’t a bad system for friends and family who are firmly anchored in the Apple ecosystem. Apple uses end-to-end encryption by default, so all of your text messages, voice memos, and videos are safe from prying eyes when your communications are broadcast around the world.
Apple itself cannot see the content of messages sent through its service. The California-based company has a pretty strong stance on the privacy of its users, and even goes head to toe with the UK government and the FBI for filing requests to break encryption so security services can access information on terrorist phones .
The non-profit Digital Rights Group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) scored iMessage 5 out of 7 possible points in its scorecard. The system developed by Apple lost points because it didn’t build the code behind the service as an open source service like Signal, allowing security researchers and experts to check Apple’s claims and practices for loopholes.
Discord didn’t start out as a messaging app but can now be used for this purpose
Discord (iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows, Linux, Online)
Discord started out as a platform for gamers to discuss video games … but has grown into something much, much more. Depending on how you use the features, Discord is now recommended as an alternative to privacy-centric messaging services like Telegram, as well as corporate solutions like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
Discord has a private messaging feature very similar to WhatsApp’s. However, unlike Facebook’s chat app (and a few other entries on this list), there is no need to share your phone number. As with Threema, you can create your own username to identify yourself in the server-based messaging app. This can be a random collection of letters or numbers if you want to hide your name and number from the service.
Discord users can create a group chat with up to 10 friends. If you want to add more, you’ll need to start your own Discord server and do the hosting yourself.
The service has a pretty extensive list of features including group chats, video and photo sharing, the ability to send files, and much more. It’s also available on a variety of different platforms.