WhatsApp Alternative Apps: Telegram, Signal and Viber–Indian express

Clipped from: https://indianexpress.com/article/technology/techook/whatsapp-alternatives-signal-telegram-viber-faq-and-features-7138298/

We take a look at the three messaging apps that you can try to bid farewell to WhatsApp. The list includes Signal, Telegram and Viber.

WhatsApp has revised its privacy policy, which has sparked concern given the data sharing with Facebook and its partner companies. The new privacy policy has certainly caused a lot more people to consider alternatives to WhatsApp. The Signal app for instance has seen a meteoric rise in its popularity, and has topped the charts on iOS, driven by an increase in downloads from India.

Another popular alternative to WhatsApp is Telegram, which while it is not end-to-end encrypted across the app, continues to gain new users. Finally, there’s Viber, which has been a popular app, before WhatsApp started dominating. Here’s a detailed look at these three messaging apps and what you need to keep in mind.

Signal

Signal has almost all the features as seen on a regular messaging app. But it collects the bare minimum user data. (Image source: Signal)

Currently, the best alternative to WhatsApp if one were to consider the security features and the fact that this is run by a non-profit.

Security Featureshttps://images.indianexpress.com/2020/08/1×1.png

It has end-to-end encryption based on the Signal protocol, built by American cryptographer Moxie Marlinspike, who is also the CEO of Signal. It means no third-party or even Signal can read your messages. The Signal protocol is open-source, which is another good thing. Signal does not support third-party backups either, which is actually a good thing. All data remains stored locally on the device, and if you do lose access to the device and try to set up Signal on another phone, your previous chat history is lost.

Cross-Platform

Yes, Signal can be used across platforms from Android, iOS, iPad, Mac, Windows and Linux as well. The app shows the name of the contacts that are on Signal, which makes it easy for you to connect.

Free or paid? Ads?

Signal is totally free. The app is run by a non-profit. Former WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton helped found the Signal foundation along with Marlinspike, and has also poured in $50 million to fund the app. It does not sell your data or monetise it and does not have advertisements.

Groups, video and audio calls

Yes, it supports Group features with a maximum of 150 members. It has recently added Group video calls. The app also supports regular video and audio calls, which are also end-to-end encrypted.

Disappearing Messages

Yes, you can turn on disappearing messages for each chat, which is great. The time can be set by you ranging from five seconds to one week.

Screen Lock, Other features

Yes, there is a screen lock feature. You can also set a PIN to the Signal account to keep your account secure. There is also an incognito keyboard option, which basically doesn’t allow your keyboard to save what you are typing. Other features include fingerprint lock, read Receipts, location sharing, relay calls, archive chats, and more.

There is also a feature called Message Requests, which gives you the option to block, delete, or accept messages from an unknown person. Signal lets you react to any message with emojis. You also get the option to not allow a user to take chat screenshots.

In order to add anyone in a group, the individual will be required to accept the group invitation, unlike WhatsApp. The storage management of the app is really good and quite similar to WhatsApp. You can clear messages, remove videos or images and check different files in the storage management tool.

Data collected 

The key priority of Signal is user privacy, which is why the app doesn’t collect any user data, as per the privacy labels provided on the App Store. The app only stores your phone number or contact information.  When it comes to data collection, this is one of the most minimal apps out there. You can learn more about the Signal app here.

Telegram

Telegram is one of the most popular apps with around 500 million users. (Image source: Reuters)

Telegram is another popular alternative WhatsApp and you will likely find a lot of your friends there. A user won’t really find it difficult to switch to this app as it is simple to use and has most of the WhatsApp users. In fact, some of the Telegram features are not present in WhatsApp.

Security feature 

Telegram is encrypted, and it is open-source, though in the past issues have been raised about its encryption. While normal chats are not end-to-end encrypted, as they are on Signal and WhatsApp, if you start a secret chat on Telegram, it is secured and does not get saved. You can also set a timer to destruct these secret chat messages.

To protect the data that is not covered by end-to-end encryption, the company uses a distributed infrastructure. Regarding the issue over end-to-end encryption, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov wrote in a blog, “We rely on our own distributed cross-jurisdictional encrypted cloud storage which we believe is much more protected,” compared to say Apple or Google.

Cross-platform 

Yes, it is a cross-platform app, which is available on Android, iOS, Mac, Windows. Given it relies on its own cloud backup, Telegram ensures that when you set up the app on a different device, the entire chat history is retained.

Free or paid? Ads? 

Telegram is free. It is an ad-free service for now. But Telegram recently announced its monetisation plans as the company says the project of this “size needs at least a few hundred million dollars per year to keep going.” The service also confirmed that the advertisement interface will be user-friendly, and it will respect users privacy, which means no data will be taken.

As per Telegram, it will soon launch premium features for business or power users. The current features will remain free for all the Telegram users, but the new ones might fall in the premium plan. The company will also add ads in massive public channels. Note that one-on-one and private group chats won’t have ads.

Groups, video and audio calls 

Telegram is really popular for groups, and allows more than 200,000 users in a group. It also supports audio and video calls as well. Interestingly all video calls are end-to-end encrypted.

Disappearing Messages 

Disappearing messages are part of the Secret Chat feature and you can set a timer for messages. The time range offered is one second to one week.

Screen Lock, Other Features

The best part about Telegram is it is a cloud service, which is why you don’t need to worry about backing up chats to other servers to restore them on a new device. With Telegram, you can access your data from any of your devices as the data is synchronised across all your registered devices through cloud-based service.

The good part about Telegram is you can send up to 1.5GB of files, create channels, add up to 2 lakh users in a group, forward files without downloading them, schedule messages, archive chats, and more. Telegram allows users to find anyone by username or phone number. Further users can edit messages as well. Telegram even displays the name of the original source from where you have forwarded a message and once you tap on it, you will be redirected to that group or channel.

Telegram supports Picture-in-Picture mode, which means that you can video call while using other apps like Instagram. On Telegram, a group admin can set different permissions for every user. Telegram offers really cool and fun animated stickers, which you will not find on any other messaging app. In order to create an account, you just need to provide your mobile number and some basic information.

Data collected 

The data collected by Telegram includes name, phone number, contacts and user ID, according to the privacy label on the Apple App Store.

Viber

One of the good alternatives to WhatsApp is also Viber, apart from Telegram and Signal.

Security Features

This is yet another privacy messenger app, which supports end-to-end encryption. All types of messages, photos, videos, voice and video calls and group chats are encrypted. The company says that everyone will have to make sure that they are using the latest version of Viber to get maximum protection.

Similar to WhatsApp, all your chats can be backed up to Google Drive, from where you can restore your chats. Viber says that once you upload your chats to Google, it won’t be responsible for your data protection and privacy will depend on Google’s policy.

Cross-Platform

Yes, Viber can be used across platforms from Android, iOS, and Windows as well.

Free or paid? Ads?

Like all the other apps, Viber is also free. However, you will witness a few ads in the popular messaging app. The company says “Showing you these tailored and relevant offers help us keep the app free for you to use.”

“Since we don’t have access to your chats, neither advertising providers nor brands can access your chats. The content of your chats stays in your chats always and never will be used for showing your relevant ads,” Viber said in a blog post.

Groups, video and audio calls

Yes, it supports Group features with up to 250 members. One can only add members by sending an invitation to a Viber user. This feature works similar to Signal. The app also supports regular video and audio calls that are also end-to-end encrypted.

Disappearing Messages

Similar to Telegram, you get a secret chat mode here too. You can set the timer, and screenshot/forwarding feature is disabled. The time can be set by you ranging from one second to one week.

Screen Lock, Other features

The screen lock feature is available, but not for the mobile version. You can send stickers and GIFs, delete or edit messages, share location, voice messages, and share files. You can create your own GIF, search and send YouTube videos in the app itself and do a lot of other things. However, the privacy features that Signal offers are not present in both Telegram and Viber.

What data does Viber collect?

Viber collects location and device ID identifiers. It also collects device ID identifiers. It collects phone numbers, user ID, product interaction, purchase history, other contact information such as email ID, name, and contacts.

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