WhatsApp is the go-to messaging app for most South Africans. The Facebook-owned service is undoubtedly the most popular messaging platform on the planet, second only to WeChat in terms of total daily users, but far surpassing it in geographical reach. Is it too big to fail? What would we do without it? Umm, probably just move on to the next best messaging app…
The company has been pushing out new updates to make sure that it remains the default messaging app on every smartphone in the west (and south, in our case). But WhatsApp shares user data with its parent company Facebook, which has worsened an already poor reputation in recent months by mismanaging its users’ info.
We won’t blame you for fantasising about hitting the ‘Uninstall’ button. We’ve felt the urge ourselves. And there are more secure personal messaging options in the app market. We’ve narrowed it down to three alternatives to WhatsApp, all of which are available on both Android and iOS. These aren’t the only alternatives, but they’re our favourites. If you’re planning on leaving Facebook’s data-hungry, sometimes suffocating embrace behind, these are your best choices.
Telegram Messenger (iOS/Android) Telegram Messenger is known as one of the best WhatsApp competitors, and it’s great app to have in your drawer even if you don’t plan to abandon the green giant. The open-source messenger is known for its practical and useful features but mostly for its security. It’s also known among dedicated fans for its options to create chatbots, message board-like groups, and even custom sticker packs.
Along with the usual messaging features that both WhatsApp and Telegram share, Telegram features super-groups of up to 5,000 people, public channels, usernames, the ability to share files of up to 1.5 GB, self-destructing messages (messages that disappear a short while after being sent, like Snapchat images) and end-to-end encryption in secret chats.
It also has Telegram Bots, that have the ability to send you updates or news, as well as integrate with existing apps (Gmail and YouTube, for example) to create a more streamlined working space. There are even several game bots that let you play games inside Telegram.
Telegram can also be used on multiple platforms at once, including desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone — which can all be linked and used simultaneously. Unlike WhatsApp, that demands a phone number. Got multiple phones? You can use Telegram on all of them without a hitch. It also supports voice messages (or voice notes — we all know that one guy) and facilitates calls over data connections. Plus you can send voice note-like video notes, but it still lacks full-blown video calls at this stage.
For extra cool points, Telegram’s Russian chief has refused to cooperate with governments (including his own) demanding access to the platform, and he swears the service will forever remain ad-free. Looking for a secure messaging app with useful bots that could potentially organise your life? Have a look at Telegram.
The app does have a few unique features when compared to WhatsApp, like LINE Out which lets you make international calls to non-LINE users, a sticker store, and a Keep feature that lets you save your favorite messages and images. There’s also a Facebook-like ‘Timeline’ feature that feeds you updates that friends posted on their ‘Timelines’.
LINE includes a passcode lock, the ability to filter messages, personalisation themes, and LINE Pay for payments. There’s no doubt that LINE is a capable and feature-rich messaging app, but some of the options do leave it feeling very bloated.
People who prefer WhatsApp’s simplicity might not be into LINE, but if you are looking for a feature-rich messaging and calling app, it’s well worth a look.
Signal (iOS/Android)Open Source Systems, the company that powers the end-to-end encryption technology in WhatsApp Messenger and Facebook Messenger, created its own messaging app called Signal Private Messenger.
For obvious reasons, Signal offers a number of security benefits compared to WhatsApp. Unlike WhatsApp, the open-source Signal app offers self-destructing messages and screen security (which prevents anyone from taking screenshots of conversations). It also features encryption for all of your message and image backups, and even calls.
Signal also includes support for SMS but it lacks video calling and file sharing. But if security is your top priority, Signal is the app to use.
Of course, whatever platform you choose, the biggest challenge may be getting your friends and family to use it. Perhaps a custom family sticker pack to lure them to Telegram should be your next project?