In this post I will explain why you should use Signal as your texting app and give straightforward step-by-step instructions on how to get started and what to expect. I didn’t really find any article on the web that goes through Signal’s features and benefits, so that’s why I’ve put this post together!
I love playing around with different apps, especially messaging ones because I’m always curious to see which of my friends are also on it. WhatsApp, Viber, LINE, KakaoTalk, Telegram, GroupMe, WeChat, BBM, you name it. Some of these also allow you call your friends and family over a data/WiFi connection, allowing you to keep in touch worldwide for free.
I’ve also tried out other apps like Textra, Hello SMS, Chomp SMS, and QKSMS, which are purely SMS/texting apps (not messaging).
Now to my recommendation: Signal.
Signal: “I can’t believe it’s not WhatsApp!”
(photo credits: Open Whisper Systems)
If I were to describe it in one sentence: Signal is almost exactly like WhatsApp – there’s no need to create an account, it works with your existing address book, and you can message/call friends/family via data/WiFi (for free).
While it doesn’t currently support sending voice messages, Signal is ad-free, open-source, and is a SMS/texting app and messaging app in one so you don’t need to switch from Whatsapp to your texting app in order to send a text message.
Oh, and Signal doesn’t have the WhatsApp read-receipt checkmark. Signal has two checkmarks, but the second checkmark confirms that the message was delivered to your contact’s device, not that they read your message.
Below is a list of features offered by Signal:
- Truly Free: there are no ads and it doesn’t ask you for money
- Beautiful Interface: simple, intuitive, and fast, it has an experience comparable to that of QKSMS or Textra (known for a good user experience)
- Just Install and Go: like WhatsApp, it uses your existing phone number and address book so once you install it, you can start messaging right away
- Import Text Messages: you have the choice of importing all your old text messages when you install Signal
- Smart Messaging: if you are messaging a person who also has Signal, it will be sent just like Whatsapp (Internet/WiFi if available). If you are messaging a person who isn’t on Signal, it will be sent as a normal text message.
- Know Who Else is using Signal: when you send a new message, it will show you which of your phone’s contacts are using Signal
- Send Files: you can send media/attachments
- Group Chats: you can create group chats, complete with custom titles and icons
- Free Calls: you can call contacts through an Internet connection (just like WhatsApp/Facebook/KakaoTalk), with no long-distance charges
- Notifications Control: choose whether or not a person’s name or message are shown when you get a message from them
- Lock: you can optionally require a password in order to access your messages
- Themes: you can choose between a light or dark theme (I personally use the dark theme)
- Control Auto-Downloads: you are able to control if images, audio and/or video are automatically downloaded depending on how you’re connected (mobile data, WiFi or roaming)
- Contact Colours: it generates a different colour for each contact making it easier to distinguish messages (you can set a specific colour for specific contacts)
- iOS and Android Compatible: it’s available for both iOS and Android (a web browser version is also coming soon!)
So going by the above list, Signal is a fully-functioning texting and messaging app. But there’s something else to add to the above list: Signal respects your privacy and isn’t monitoring/mining your messages.
Your messages, calls, files sent through Signal are encrypted end-to-end, encrypted so well in fact that it’s endorsed by Edward Snowden (as well as many other security experts).
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 2, 2015
In short, you can use Signal as a nice, light-weight texting app and at the same time you can also use it as a “WhatsApp-like” app where you can message/call contacts over a data/WiFi connection for free no matter where you are in the world. It’s win/win either way. And here’s the true beauty of it:
This is some kind of turning point: In lounge at ORD, listening to an elderly gentleman tell someone on his cellphone how to install Signal. — matt blaze (@mattblaze) October 26, 2015
In other words, it makes encryption so easy anyone can use it, and this is true success.
Installing, Getting Started, and Using Signal
- Download Signal:
- Install and then run Signal
- You will be asked if you want to require a passphrase to read your text messages. Personally, I chose to skip this option as I’ve already set a lock on my phone.
- Next, you will be asked if you want to import your existing text messages into Signal (also optional).
- Next, you are asked to verify your phone number (just like Whatsapp, WeChat, LINE, KakaoTalk).
- After your phone number is verified, you will be asked if you want to set Signal as your default messaging app. I highly recommend you tap “Yes”.
- You’re all set! When you tap the pencil icon to send a new message, it will show a list of your contacts in two categories:
- Signal Users – people in your contact list who are already on Signal who you can message/call for free on an Internet/WiFi connection (and also create group chats with)
- All Contacts – everyone else in your contact list who aren’t on Signal (messages to these people will be sent as normal text/SMS messages)
- Chat freely (and privately). For all my friends who have me in their address book on their phone, you’ll find me on Signal 🙂