Whatsapp is currently the world’s largest messaging service with over 2 billion monthly active users. Telegram then has 500 million users, and Signal is on the football field with 10-20 million monthly active users. Just by looking at the raw numbers, we can conclude that WhatsApp is extremely popular almost everywhere, while Telegram is catching up and it looks like Signal has just joined the million download race.
However, the numbers don’t always tell you the whole story, here we do a comprehensive comparison of the security and other app features of three messaging applications.
WhatsApp offers almost every feature you might need. You get support for group chats with up to 256 participants. You can also send messages to multiple contacts at the same time. It also supports audio and video calling for individuals and groups. However, for group video calls, you can only use 8 users at a time. In addition, WhatsApp also provides a status feature (also called WhatsApp stories) similar to Instagram stories. Whatsapp also allows you to exchange all kinds of files and documents, but there are file size limits that need to be respected. For photos, videos and audio files, the limit is 16 MB. However, documents can be up to 100 MB in size. You can also share your current location with your contacts, and I’m sure many users will find this feature useful. And because WhatsApp is aimed at users in general, it provides seamless backup and restore features through cloud services like Google Drive and iCloud. Best of all, cloud backups are completely free.
The Telegram app offers so many incredible features. Just like WhatsApp, you get the basics like chats, group chats, and channels. However, unlike WhatsApp’s 256 member limit, Telegram supports groups of up to 200,000 members. It also provides several group features such as robots, polls, quizzes, hashtags and more, making the group experience even more fun. The app also offers a unique self-destruct message feature (like Snapchat), which is great if you’re sending messages that you don’t want to stay on the recipient’s device forever. Telegram file sharing has a maximum size of 1.5 GB. The app now has audio and video calling on Android and iOS devices, which is great because video calling support was a huge omission in the app.
Signal provides its users with secure messages, voice and video calls, and all communications are encrypted. You can also create groups, but you cannot send messages to multiple contacts at the same time. Additionally, conferencing support has recently been added to Signal. It has a function similar to the self-destructing Telegram messages. The best feature of Signal is a Note to Self. Unlike WhatsApp, you don’t need to create a single member group to send yourself notes. This feature is already available in Signal and you can record your thoughts and ideas by exchanging messages with friends and family. Plus, Signal allows you to relay voice calls to its servers so that your identity remains anonymous to your contacts. This feature is somewhat similar to what a VPN does. There are emojis and a few privacy stickers too, but these are very limited compared to WhatsApp and Telegram.
Security and Privacy
Whatsapp End-to-end encryption (E2E), which was introduced to WhatsApp in 2016, is available in all communication modes supported by the app. This way, all your messages, video calls, voice calls, photos and everything else you share are encrypted end-to-end. WhatsApp uses the E2E protocol developed by Open Whisper Systems, the name of the Signal messaging application. This is good because the Signal protocol is open source, subject to broad peer review, and generally considered one of the best protocols for implementing end-to-end encryption on messaging platforms. However, WhatsApp does not encrypt backups (cloud or local). It also does not encrypt the metadata used to transfer data between two endpoints. This is one of the main criticisms of the WhatsApp security model. While metadata prevents anyone from reading your posts, it allows authorities to know who wrote to someone and when and for how long. Overall, WhatsApp does a very decent job of keeping its users safe. However, WhatsApp suffered from serious privacy nightmares, especially the recent problem with indexing group chats on Google Search. This issue has been fixed.
Telegram offers its users a certain level of protection. Although Telegram supports E2E encryption, it is not enabled by default. The only way to use E2E encryption on Telegram is to use the secret conversations feature. However, Telegram states that it manages the keys for storing and decrypting messages in such a way that it requires judicial decisions from multiple legal systems around the world to access any of your data. The company says it has transferred 0 bytes of data to third parties and governments to date. Telegram groups are not encrypted because secret chats are only supported for individual user communication. Moreover, Telegram desktop client does not support E2E encryption on any platform other than macOS.
Signal is by far the best when it comes to security, whether it’s the back end or the user-facing side of the service. Signal uses an open source signaling protocol to implement end-to-end encryption. As with WhatsApp, E2E encryption covers all forms of signaling. Signal goes one step further and encrypts metadata as well. To protect the privacy of users from all sides, Signal has invented a new way of communication between sender and recipient called Sealed Sender. In fact, with Sealed Sender, no one can know, not even Signal, who is sending messages to whom, ensuring absolute privacy. By default, Signal encrypts all local files with a 4-digit passphrase. And if you want to create a local encrypted backup, you can do that as well. The app now also supports encrypted conference calls. Overall, Signal is a cut above WhatsApp and Telegram in terms of security and privacy, making it the safest messaging app of the three.
Apps data collection
Following is the list of data that each of the three messaging apps collects from their users:
Advertising Data, Device ID, User ID, Phone Number, Purchase History, Coarse Location, Email Address, Contacts, Product Interaction, Crash Data, Performance Data, Other Diagnostic Data, Payment Info, Customer Support, Product Interaction, Other User Content, Telegram, Contact Info, Contacts, User ID
None. (The only personal data Signal stores is your phone number)
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