WhatsApp sometimes seems pretty ubiquitous and it won lots of admirers when it first encrypted its chats back in 2016. Even before that, many had used it for voice and video calls and other advantages.
But the fact remains that WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, a company that is increasingly synonymous with profiting from user data.
Your file sharing, WhatsApp chats, and contents of messages are still safe, however, but not all of the data that goes through with your messages can say the same.
Plus, the revelations earlier this year that WhatsApp, supposedly a secure messaging app would be sharing all transactional data and metadata with its parent company only put users more on edge.
Many have started looking for the best WhatsApp alternatives among other messaging apps after that.
Quite a few have already switched to other instant messenger services and many more have said that they would like to, but are unsure where to turn. Some WhatsApp alternatives might have the same, or worse problems.
In this guide, we will highlight the Top 7 Best Whatsapp Alternatives and explain a little about why we are recommending these services as well as answering some of your other WhatsApp related questions.
If you’re looking to jump ship, keep scrolling down.
Table of Contents
Top 7 Best Whatsapp Alternatives
- Open source protocol
- Protocol independently audited
- Retains minimal metadata
- Available for most devices
- End-to-End Encryption
- Offers group video chat
- App not independently audited
The Signal instant messenger was created by cryptographer and privacy activist Moxie Marlinspike who runs the Signal Foundation. And when it comes to privacy, this messaging service ticks all the boxes.
It runs using its own Signal protocol. This protocol is open source and has been independently audited and proved to be incredibly secure. It is so good that other instant messengers you are probably more familiar with, including WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger, all make use of it.
The Signal app itself is also 100% open-source which is great. It is widely recognised as private and secure. It retains minimal meta data and while the app itself has not been independently audited, this claim has been tested and upheld in court.
The only minor security concern around Signal relates to its use of Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX). This could theoretically allow users own data (but crucially not the content of messages, those are still known to only the sender and the intended recipient) to be compromised at server level, but there is no suggestion that this has ever been the case.
Signal also requires users to register a valid mobile phone app before they can sync contact list on all your devices but these contact details are only stored locally and crucially are inaccessible to the Signal Foundation. This contributes to private communication and safety of all participants.
For many users, the Signal app is clean and simple to use and can be downloaded onto multiple platforms, like Windows, macOS, Linux, and it has mobile versions, such as iOS and Android version, and even Windows phone version of its messaging app.
All these other apps offer a range of features, including disappearing messages, E2EE group chat, group voice chat and voice messages, and group video chats between up to eight different users who can participate in video calling.
It is also worth noting that the Signal Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation, so unlike Facebook, Signal’s priorities will never be distorted by attempts to maximise returns for shareholders.
It is by some distance the best of alternatives to the WhatsApp messaging app on the market at the moment and our top recommendation.
- Over 500 million users
- Rejects authoritarian governments
- Apps and API open source
- Voice & video chats encrypted
- Not for profit
- Fun stickers
- Not end-to-end encrypted by default
- No group video
- Too much metadata
Telegram is perhaps the best known secure and private alternative to WhatsApp. It was launched in 2013 by brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, the founders of popular Russian social media site VK.
The brothers fell out badly with the Putin regime, which is no bad thing, but have instead headquartered Telegram in the UAE, which is not the most privacy-friendly country on earth either.
Telegram apps have more than 500 million users worldwide. Its reputation for security and privacy has been bolstered by some high profile run-ins with authoritarian governments in Russia, Iran, and Indonesia, among others.
But Telegram is not perfect. It doesn’t apply end-to-end encryption to all messages by default. Only secret messages are encrypted in this way and these are not available for groups or channels.
Default messages are cloud-based and while these are encrypted in transit and when on Telegram’s servers, they are not on users’ devices.
Telegram uses MTProto encryption, its own protocol. While the latest version has been shown to be sound, there have been a lot of concerns raised as to why Telegram used this protocol rather than a better known and independently verified version.
Telegram’s apps and API are all open source which is great but the backend of the service is not and this is a concern for some privacy experts too. Equally, while one-to-one voice and video chats are end-to-end encrypted, group chats are not. Video group chats are not yet available.
Questions about their use of metadata have also been raised with Telegram openly admitting that they may collect all manner of different data including, but not limited to, your IP address, the devices and versions of the Telegram messaging service you used, the history of username changes, etc.
But for all these concerns, there are plenty of great features that go some way to explaining Telegram’s popularity.
It allows public channels to be created using an alias and a URL that anyone can subscribe to, which is great in countries where protest groups and opposition movements need to use popular messaging apps like Telegram to organise and mobilise protests.
You can also use stickers and polls, declare live locations in chats, and much more.
While Telegram is not a not-for-profit, it is funded by public donations (Primarily from its wealthy founders). There has been some talk of possibly monetising some aspects of Telegram in the future but nothing has happened on that front yet.
Telegram is fun and user-friendly. It can be secure and private too, but only if you make sure the settings are set up appropriately. Another good WhatsApp alternative, but perhaps not as robust as Signal.
- Registered in Switzerland
- Purchase using Bitcoin
- No phone number needed
- End-to-end encrypted text and voice
- Costs to use
- No encrypted video chat
- Small user base
Aside from the ‘big two’ WhatsApp alternatives, Threema is definitely the ‘best of the rest’.
It has a fairly small user base a the moment which is a shame as when it comes to service, this really is an extremely good and privacy-friendly instant messenger service option.
Threema is a Swiss business, which is great as Switzerland has some of the best privacy laws of any developed country. This is reflected in Threema’s policies which show that not only does it not collect any user data, but it collects the bare minimum of user data too.
If that wasn’t enough, with Threema you can make calls and send messages anonymously and you do not need to register a phone number or an email address to get started. That way, your phone number can remain safe while still allowing you to send messages at any time.
You can even purchase Threema anonymously using Bitcoin.
You do have to pay for Threema, unlike WhatsApp and the other services above on this list. But the charge is a one-off price of US$3.99, which is unlikely to be a deal-breaker for most privacy-friendly users.
Once you have paid and downloaded the app, there are plenty of cool features available, including full end-to-end encryption group text and voice calls.
One-to-one end-to-end encryption video calls are also available but this feature is not there for group video calls yet, so if you need an app for group calls, you best look elsewhere.
- Recommended by Edward Snowden
- Registered in Switzerland
- Free to use
- Apps independently audited
- Retains too much metadata
- Fewer users
Wire is another Swiss-based online instant messenger app that is worth your consideration as an alternative to WhatsApp. Despite the strong local privacy laws however, Wire does choose to retain rather a lot of metadata.
Worryingly, this used to include a list of all users a customer has contacted which was stored in plaintext on its own server, which is not great for data protection.
It’s not clear if this practice continues today when most personal data is stored encrypted, but that lack of transparency is in itself far from ideal.
Wire is free to use but you will need to register with either an email address or a phone number. But once you have signed up, it is worth noting that Wire works across multiple devices in a way that many other similar messaging apps do not.
All Wire messaging apps have also been independently audited and approved.
This service encrypts all your data using the Proteus protocol, an early iteration of the Signal protocol. This has been audited and found to meet all relevant security requirements.
Wire also offers end-to-end encryption on voice calls (up to 25 participants) and video calls (up to 12 participants), as well as providing advanced video conferencing features such as screen sharing, meeting scheduling, and screen recording.
Wire is by no means perfect, but alongside Signal, it is the WhatsApp alternative that Edward Snowden recommends and it certainly has a lot going for it.
5. Wickr Me
- Disappearing messages
- Partly open source
- Independently audited
- End-to-end encrypted text & voice
- Audits not public
- Video only on paid version
Wickr Me‘s big selling point is its disappearing messages. The default setting is that all messages disappear from both the sending and receiving devices after six days. Users can change this setting and even make it disappear after reading if they so wish.
This service is built on its own core wickr-crypto-c end-to-end encryption protocol, which it claims is an open source app. While it is true that the coding is openly available, the licensing restrictions around it mean this isn’t strictly speaking true, although it does take it pretty close.
The Wickr Me apps are certainly not open source, however and while they insist that a number of independent security audits have happened, the results of these audits are not in the public domain to the best of our knowledge.
There are three tiers of service you can sign up for with Wickr Me, two of which are free. Aside from the free version which is designed for personal use, there are also two levels of Wickr Me Pro on offer, one of which is also free.
Video conferencing is not available apart from in the paid-for version but there are plenty of decent features that are open to all users. These include end-to-end encrypted text and voice chats for up to 10 people and a registration service that requires neither a phone number nor an email address.
Wickr Me has also got together with Psiphon to offer an anti-censorship feature, Wickr Open Access which is another great feature of what is a very decent WhatsApp alternative.
- Apps for most devices
- End-to-end encrypted
- Good for younger users
- Free to use
- Less popular
- Less security focused
You may remember Viber from its previous incarnation as a VoIP app. But under the ownership of Rakuten, the Japanese behemoth, it has added features like text messaging, voice and video calls, and the ability to create group chats and group messaging to make it a fully-fledged, and franky rather fun alternative to WhatsApp.
Viber comes with fully integrated desktop and mobile apps. In a slight handover from its former days, however, you will still need to register with a valid mobile phone number in order to get things going.
This communication tool offers a fully end-to-end encrypted service, the ability to share files, and several features that might make Viber a popular option for younger users.
These include things like a ‘Communities’ section, which works a bit like a social media site and lets users discuss particular topics, send media messages and engage in media sharing, and AR-powered selfie lenses, which it offers in partnership with Snapchat.
Everything on Viber is free to use (apart from Viber Out, which lets you call any international phone number), which by definition means that it may well not be the most privacy-friendly option on this list. But it is encrypted and it is still very good fun.
- Millions of users
- End-to-end encrypted
- No voice or video calls
- Mainly Apple users only
This option is only one for macOS or iOS device users. But if you are one of the many millions of people worldwide that are using Apple devices, iMessages are a great alternative to WhatsApp for you.
iMessage’s are end-to-end encrypted text messages that can be sent between Apple devices. You can also message non-Apple devices but the encryption of these messages will depend on the device you are communicating with.
This service comes in-built on all Apple devices and offers support for images, GIFs, etc. too. In some countries, you can even use it together with Apple Pay.
Unfortunately, iMessage does not support voice or video calls – you will have to use Apple’s FaceTime tool for that. We would love to see Apple pull the two together into a single service to rival WhatsApp on every level.
That’s not happened yet, but iMessage is another good option for Apple users seeking an alternative to WhatsApp.
Is WhatsApp private?
The content of your messages on WhatsApp is protected by end-to-end encryption using the Signal protocol, so this data is definitely private and secure.
What is not so private is your metadata.
WhatsApp collects a lot of this and routinely shares it with Facebook. Privacy-conscious users will, therefore likely prefer an alternative service that hoovers up less.
What data does WhatsApp collect?
WhatsApp’s chat app collects metadata. This isn’t the contents of your messages or even video messages, but almost everything else about your use of their service.
The information that WhatsApp shares with Facebook includes your IP address, device ID, operating system, browser details, mobile network information, who you are messaging, how long and how often you interact with each person, your transaction history, your payment data, and much more more.
This data is combined with other Facebook data about you and can provide a compelling profile of you as an individual.
For many people, it is wrong for WhatsApp to hoover up and share data that they would prefer Facebook did not have.
WhatsApp collects far too much metadata for a lot of other users and us and it is far from being the universal secure chat application.
So, WhatsApp users need alternative services and chat apps that provide all the benefits of WhatsApp’s service without the downsides and they are in high demand.
In this guide, we have highlighted our top seven alternatives to WhatsApp for all your messaging needs. Signal is our number one pick as it provides all the core functionality while keeping your data secure and private.
There are pros and cons to most of our other recommendations but all offer benefits above and beyond WhatsApp when it comes to online security and privacy.
One app offers self-destructing messages that automatically delete or a highly encrypted messenger with plenty of security features. They are all worth considering, but if privacy and security are your priority, Signal is the best alternative to WhatsApp.
Now you just have the task of convincing your contacts to also move over to a safer alternative.