WhatsApp alternative Signal app explained: What is it and how to use

  • Signal has taken off after WhatsApp updated its privacy policy
  • WhatsApp has made it mandatory for users to share data with Facebook
  • Signal is run by a non-profit organisation and doesn’t link any data to your identity

Private messaging app Signal has been around for years, but it’s only now that the app has caught everyone’s attention, all thanks to WhatsApp’s new privacy policy. The latter has made it mandatory for users to share their data with Facebook. This pushed users to WhatsApp alternatives, with many opting for Signal owing to its strict privacy policy. The app is similar to WhatsApp, in the sense that it can send/ receive messages, share files, make one-to-one as well as group voice and video calls. Additionally, the Signal app is also end-to-end encrypted. So what makes Signal app unique and why users are leaving WhatsApp for it? Read on to find out:

Read more: Don’t like the new WhatsApp privacy policy? Here are 5 WhatsApp alternatives to consider

Signal app features and how it works

Signal is a private messaging platform much like Facebook-owned WhatsApp. The app allows users to send end-to-end encrypted texts, pictures, and audio and video messages and make encrypted audio and video calls using the internet. Its code is open-source and is compatible with both Android and iOS devices. There is no web version of the messaging platform, but you can download the desktop version of Signal to use it on Windows/ macOS-powered PCs.

Who runs Signal?

The Signal app was founded by WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, but it’s run by a non-profit organisation whose development is supported purely by donations from users. “We’re not tied to any major tech companies, and we can never be acquired by one either. Development is supported by grants and donations from people like you,” the company said on its website.

How to setup Signal app

How to setup Signal app
  • To start off, download and install Signal Private Messenger app by Open WhisperSystems from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store on your device. The app works on devices running iOS 9.0 or later and Android 4 or higher versions
  • Open the app and select ‘Continue’. If you’ve used Signal before and wish to join back, select ‘Restore backup’. As the name suggests, the option will restore your account and you can start using the app from where you left off
  • Both options will prompt a message to allow the app to access your contacts in order to ‘connect with friends, exchange messages, and make secure calls.’ You can tap ‘Not Now’ or ‘Continue’
  • Next up, enter your phone number to get started. The number will be verified with an OTP
  • Now you can set up your profile with your photo and name – both optional – and hit next. The company claims that your profile will end-to-end encrypted and will only be visible to your contacts when you initiate or accept the new conversation.
  • Then you will get the option to ‘Create Your PIN’, which will also be encrypted to keep your account safe.
  • Android users can set the Signal app as their default text messaging application. These text messages will be unencrypted and incur fees as set by your plan.

How to use Signal app

how to use Signal app
  • Once you’re done with the setup, tap on the Pencil icon from the bottom right to see a list of contacts on Signal in the phone library
  • Select a contact to initiate a conversation
  • You’ll get a chatbox for chatting, making voice calls, and sharing files
  • Tap on the three-dot icon from the top right to access ‘Disappearing messages’, ‘All media’, ‘Conversation settings’, ‘Search’, ‘Mute notifications’, among other things
  • You can also create a group on the Signal app. For that, jump to the home screen, tap on the three-dot icon from the top left, and select ‘New Group’. The process is pretty much the same as on WhatsApp
  • To access the app’s settings, tap on the icon next to ‘Signal’ atop. The Settings menu has the ‘Linked devices’ option that lets you add devices using the QR code

Is Signal app really safe?

Unlike WhatsApp, Signal doesn’t link any data to your identity. “By design, it does not store a record of your contacts, social graph, conversation list, location, user avatar, user profile name, group memberships, group titles, or group avatars,” the company says in its blog. The only personal data Signal stores is your phone number. Additionally, Signal comes with ‘Sealed Sender’ feature to shield your identity. The feature keeps the sender and recipient’s detail anonymous to the outside world.

What data does WhatsApp collect?

Per WhatsApp’s new policy, which will be enforced from February 8th onwards, it’ll collect users’ purchase history, financial information, location details, contacts, phone number, email address, and usage data, among others.

Is Signal app free?

Yes, the Signal app is completely free to use. It also doesn’t run any ads and trackers whatsoever. The app’s development is supported by donations from users around the world.