5 best free messaging apps
From the communication platform WhatsApp leaves more and more users for different reasons. If you're one of them, there are a lot of possibilities on how to replace it with something better.
We will show you what are the 5 free alternatives to WhatsApp to have a text or audio-video conversation with your friends, family while ensuring your privacy and security.
Moreover, it turned out that Facebook wants to share information about you with other companies like Onavo, Facebook Payments or CrowdTangle. All of this leads a lot of folk in the US to reconsider if they want to stay with WhatsApp or they’d leave. Some users in the EU have taken a similar step, although they are not affected by this change due to different privacy laws. While this change of conditions is on hold for a few months, and WhatsApp is quickly trying to save face by explaining those changes, clearing desinformation and facing lawsuits, maybe there is time to think about what else is there.
Moreover, from the january of 2021 many older phones (years 2011 - 2012) or more specifically phones with older versions of Android 4.0.3 or iOS 9 won't be supported by WhatsApp and the application won't work anymore.
Now we know that switching to a different platform can be difficult, but we will show you that replacing WhatsApp can be quite easy if you know what alternatives there are. In this article we point out the advantages and disadvantages of the best of them. Let's go into it.
First on this list is Telegram, this application service uses more than 500 million monthly active users. It is perhaps whatsApp's biggest competitor in terms of functionality.
It’s free, the account is tied to a telephone number. Application can be used on multiple platforms, basically on all operating systems (Windows, macOs, Linux, Android and iOS) or as a web application, and that is just convenient. Telegram’s messages are cloud-based, users can share photos, videos, audio messages, file sharing up-to 1.5 Gb, and since 2017 voice calls.
Supports also periodically changed client-to-client encryption (but not group encryption), so called secret chats, there is also an option to delete the conversation at any time or destroyed after defined countdown.
From 2020 it has video calls with end-to-end encryption like Signal and WhatsApp.
Telegram uses centralized servers, but most importantly, Telegram's server-side software is closed-source and proprietary. For users who signed in from the European Economic Area (EEA) or United Kingdom, the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) are supported by storing data only on servers in the Netherlands.
The company has reported record increases in users in recent days. According to the founder of the service, Pavel Durov, 25 million new registrations received services in three days, the usual increase is about 1.5 million users per day.
Next is application Signal with about 20 million active users in 2020 and also gains lot of newcomers every day. Signal is cross-platform - supports operating systems like Windows, macOs, Linux, Android and iOS. It can’t be used as a Web Application, only with official client apps installed. Offers similar functions as its competitors like one-to-one or group video calls, file transfer, voice recording and also end-to-end encryption and that also in group chat or self-destructing messages.
It's also free and it's mandatory to register one phone number for verification. The biggest difference is that Signal is open-source, that means that the code of the application is publicly available and anyone can check that it does not contain any malicious parts.
So if you’re all about security and privacy, Signal messenger is your best bet.
Threema is a paid, open-source app for iOS, Android and can be used as a Web App on desktop devices. As of the time of this article (Q1-2021) the android version costs around 4 Euros on the google play store. It doesn't require a phone number or any other personally identifiable information and it has around 8 million users.
It supports voice calls, video calls, file transfers, voice messages, file transfer, similarly to other messengers mentioned in this article.
Threema’s servers are located in Switzerland and all communication is completely encrypted, even such trivial things as status updates.
Threema is considered to be among the best encrypted applications on the market according to many experts and regularly appears on the top charts of similar apps.
During the second week of 2021, Threema saw a quadrupling of daily downloads, as we mentioned started by controversial privacy changes in WhatsApp.
Very popular is also Viber, a freeware application for Android, iOS, macOS, Windows and Linux platforms or as a Web app on desktop devices as well.
Users are required to be registered with one phone number, although as Web App service is accessible without it.
Offers complete functions as Whatsapp - instant messaging, voice and video calls, media exchange or file transfer.
There are over 1 billion registered users on the network and 260 million active users, which is impressive.
Available is end-to-end encryption and there is also an option to auto delete messages after defined time.
As Threema wasn't technically free, this is..
For those Apple users, those can use free, pre-installed or built-in application iMessage. It functions both on iOS or macOS, iPadOS and also watchOS. This app is done such a way that it automatically convert an SMS/MMS to iMessage if the recipient was registered; and from iMessage to SMS/MMS so there is possibility to reach out users with old phones or without this app installed. On Apple Watch for example, it has no keyboard, users can respond to messages using preset replies or text transcribed by Siri.
The biggest drawback in our opinion is that with iMessage, users could send text, picture messages only to other Apple devices.
Google Hangouts, Google Chat, Google Meet
Hangouts is a cross-platform messaging app, obviously developed by Google, currently is being replaced with its functionality by Google Chat in 2021.
Google Meet is targeted at business users, its focus is on the video conferences, Google Chat is focused on instant messaging.
Hangouts allows conversations between two or more users, includes the ability to make free voice calls to other Google users and supports calls to landline phones. Downside is that there is a list of countries where calling from Hangouts is not available. Also allows content sharing via Google Drive.
Chat (formerly known as Hangouts Chat) provides direct messages to team members, group messaging functions and more. Current version is for G Suite customers only, but Google announced that plans to open Google Chat to consumers in early 2021.
Google Hangouts will remain a consumer-level product for people using standard Google accounts, Google Meet became free in april 2020 in response to COVID-19 as well and Google Chat eventually would be made free according to Google.
You can even try this app, formerly known as Android Messages. Its SMS and instant messages application, available for Android and as a Web App, and offers chat features. The app surpassed 1 billion instals and did not support end-to-end encryption yet.
People as a whole are less open to be hostages of the companies that are trying to exploit their data for profits even if WhatsApp pulled the breaks for now. For those tired of it probably began the major migration to the better messenger services.
While some communication applications are experiencing a lesser renaissance thanks to changes in others, we can choose freely what platform we can benefit from. Developers take inspiration from other applications and copy ideas from each other, which is only good for the end user.
Telegram has been the best alternative to whatsapp for a couple of years now and it has only got better over time.
Signal so far doesn't have profound advertisement, Viber uses many people in Asia, Threema is focused on security.
Applications which offer similar or better functionality are many more, we can mention also Skype, Wire, Discord, Slack. It's only up to you what you choose and that's just great.
Image by Freepik, Jeso Carneiro on Flickr
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