WhatsApp vs Signal vs Telegram: which one should you use?

WhatsApp vs Signal vs Telegram: which one should you use?

Whether you want to share something with a friend or discuss something confidentially with a colleague, there is no shortage of messaging apps. Among these apps, WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram are often considered the most popular. With each app offering something a little different, knowing which one to choose isn’t all that black and white. Help in making the right decision is here. Let’s take a look at some of the most important aspects of each app so you can make the right decision on which one is right for you.

Popularity

When it comes to popularity, WhatsApp is king. With over two billion users, it easily outperforms Telegram and Signal. In various parts of Europe, WhatsApp has even overtaken the use of SMS. On the other hand, WhatsApp has yet to make a dent in the United States, where only a third of Internet users have downloaded it.

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Telegram has more than 400 million users worldwide. Telegram excels with options like unlimited server storage so that your encrypted files are saved on the company’s cloud system. The capacity of group members is another advantage of Telegram with a capacity of 5,000 users at the same time. While WhatsApp communicates using your phone number, Telegram offers a username feature to ensure continued anonymity.

Signal is less popular than WhatsApp or Telegram, but with the recent WhatsApp privacy policy incident, many people have heard of Signal and have migrated. For Signal, its popularity has become the most secure messaging app on the market.

Privacy

WhatsApp

Facebook’s ownership of WhatsApp raises questions about its intentions with user data. Messages are sent with end-to-end encryption so that only your device and the recipient’s device can read them. The app backs up your messages, so if you change your device, all of your data is available.

In 2016, WhatsApp changed its privacy policy to allow data sharing from WhatsApp to Facebook. It is not known exactly what Facebook does with WhatsApp user data. An anonymous Facebook executive in 2018 blew the whistle on Facebook’s focus on selling user data. Facebook can’t (yet) misuse WhatsApp user data, but the company’s track record offers plenty of grounds for skepticism.

WhatsApp is under increasing pressure to be transparent about its privacy policy thanks to a recent update that removed its refusal to share data with Facebook. From January 2021, the company rolled back a few recent privacy updates regarding Facebook sharing to give users more time to understand the new changes.

Telegram

Telegram is also under the microscope with an emphasis on user privacy. Cloud chats, the most common type of message offered by Telegram, include certain data that Telegram stores on its servers. This can include photos, videos, documents, etc. Telegram claims that it stores this information so that you can retrieve it on any device “without having to rely on third-party backups.” The company says the data remains heavily encrypted, but that it can access this information is enough to give many people pause. “Secret chats” use end-to-end encryption, which means Telegram won’t know what is said or sent in these messages without having direct access to your device.

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The company emphasizes that it will not use its data to show you advertisements and will only store what is necessary to ensure the security of the app. However, a number of security concerns have arisen in recent years around potential hacker targets. In May 2017, MIT researchers have found hackers could focus on when a Telegram user went online or offline. Additionally, Telegram’s apps collect basic device data and IP addresses for good moderation. If you intend to use their two-factor authentication method using email, the company can see that as well.

In July 2019, Symantec discovered how “media file jacking” could be used to capture user information Telegram has updated the privacy of its users in March 2019 to remove a 48 hour rule to cancel sending any message. You can now delete any conversation, including those that happened years ago, and decline it. This does not mean that Telegram is not secure or that it uses user data incorrectly. However, as with WhatsApp, Telegram users should never consider anything 100% secure or private.

Signal

When it comes to confidentiality, Signal praises it above all. As an open source application, it offers the most transparent approach to privacy. Its underlying code can be verified by anyone interested. Anyone can find and attempt to identify the holes, then work to plug them to prevent malicious use. Its protection of user privacy is so strong, the The European Commission has advised its staff to switch to Signal. It’s one of the only messaging apps that doesn’t store metadata or use the cloud to back up messages.

In the end, Signal grabbed the headlines more for its security features than for its privacy gaps. Having Signal tell you at the top of its privacy policy page that calls and messages are end-to-end encrypted is all you need to know about its transparency. Other than registering your phone number initially when signing up, Signal knows next to nothing about your account after this time. All message history is stored on local devices, not cloud servers.

Compatibility

WhatsApp has the best compatibility of the bunch. Available on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and the web. Messages are available on all platforms, so you can start a message on your desktop app and pick it up on your phone. Support is available on over 40 language platforms around the world.

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Telegram adds official support for Linux as well as apps for Android, iOS, Windows and Mac. It lacks web support, but that’s hardly a reason not to use the service. Telegram supports over 30 languages.

Signal also offers support for Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, and Linux. There is no web platform and plans to support one in the future have not been announced. The app adds support for seven languages.

features

WhatsApp offers its own set of features, including voice and video calling; Voice Messaging; group chats and video calls; Support for documents like PDFs, documents, spreadsheets, slideshows, etc. The group chat feature can support up to 256 people simultaneously. All conversations sync seamlessly between apps, so you can instantly resume a conversation on your tablet from your iPhone or vice versa.

Telegram offers an extremely popular service called “Secret Chats” which was alluded to earlier. These secret chats ensure that someone cannot take a screenshot of the conversation and that a message cannot be forwarded. Additionally, Telegram has a self-destruct timer that allows you to permanently delete messages. You can choose a delay between one second and one week before a message disappears permanently. Telegram’s ‘bots’ are one of the most unique aspects of the service and have proven to be extremely popular among users.

Sending large files with a variety of file types up to 1.5 GB (images, video, documents, audio, zip files, etc.) is another huge benefit for Telegram. In comparison, WhatsApp’s limit for file transfers is only 100MB. Personalization is another Telegram-specific feature. You can choose how the app opens links, choose dominant colors, and more.

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For Signal, besides the standard text and voice / video calling features, it adds a layer of fun expression with encrypted stickers that are only visible to the sender and recipient. You can even make your own sticker packs.

Which one should you choose?

Most people will probably choose WhatsApp just because it’s the most popular and where you’ll find your friends and family. However, the fact that it is owned by Facebook could be a cause for concern for those concerned about the privacy of their data. This is all the more true as it seems more likely than ever that a deeper integration with Facebook is on the horizon. If you are using WhatsApp, remember to take these safety precautions.

Choosing Telegram is best for someone who wants a more polished interface and the largest group chat size available. With a solid mix of security, privacy and “secret conversations”, he has a solid combination. The fact that it includes “channels” for delivering to a wider audience makes it a good app for quickly delivering news and information. However, it should be noted that Telegram’s cloud servers can store a fair amount of details of your cloud chats.

When you decide to use Signal, you are probably doing it because you want to be all about privacy. Signal is the most secure of the three messaging apps. It’s the app of choice for newsrooms around the world looking for a secure way to connect with anonymous sources. The biggest downside is its relatively small audience, which makes it a tough sell for groups of friends. While Telegram and WhatsApp are feeling the pressure on privacy, Signal has reaped the rewards, as word of mouth marketing does a lot of the heavy lifting for new users.

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David Beren
David Beren

David Beren is a freelance technical writer with over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He loves dogs, his kids and everything Nintendo.

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