At the start of 2021, Signal and Telegram are on top of the app store charts. 

Messaging apps Signal and Telegram have witnessed a surge in downloads in India since the pop-ups about WhatsApp’s new contentious terms of service started showing up for users when they opened the app. Signal has seen 2.3 million new downloads between January 6 and January 10, while Telegram has surpassed 500 million monthly active users.

If you have also made up your mind to quit WhatsApp and switch to alternatives like Signal or Telegram, but cannot decide which one to switch to, you should evaluate 3 key considerations. 

Signal and Telegram on top of the Apple App Store's free app charts.

What Signal and Telegram Have in Common

Signal and Telegram both advertise themselves as private and secure. Neither is owned by a big tech company. Signal is owned by a non-profit organization, while Telegram is owned by a for-profit company.

The ease of sending a message on both apps is fairly similar. It requires you to save a contact, send a message when you save a new contact. When the contact is not new, all you have to do is send a message. 

Both Signal and Telegram are chat apps with all the standard features, from stickers to photo and file transfers to voice and video calls.

Signal and Telegram both offer apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android. Each is free, and a phone number is all you need to sign up for either. Both offer optional desktop apps so that you can chat on a Windows PC, Mac, or Linux system, giving you the option to chat on your computer with its full keyboard.

3 Key Considerations

1. Better security with End-to-end encryption (E2E)

Signal uses the open-source Signal Protocol to implement end-to-end encryption. By default, this app encrypts all the local files with a 4-digit passphrase. It also encrypts metadata. Moreover, Signal’s “Sealed Sender” feature disables the ability to figure out who is sending and receiving messages. These “sealed” messages hide your IP address from non-contacts with whom you have not shared your profile.

Telegram does not offer E2E, instead uses something the company calls Client-Server encryption. This means that in theory, Telegram has access to the contents of the messages being sent via its platform but the company claims that it would involve tons of legal paperwork to read these messages. Users have to enable the “secret chats” feature if they do not want the chats to be stored locally at all. If they do not enable the secret chats, Telegram will store your messages on its local cloud, which will be encrypted. Telegram groups are not encrypted because Secret Chats are only supported for single-user communication. Moreover, Telegram’s desktop client doesn’t support E2E encryption on any platform other than macOS. This app has its own end-to-end encryption service called MTProto which is not entirely open source.

Therefore, Signal is the most-secure app out of the two and since it offers E2E. Additionally, it also encrypts the metadata of the message so no one can track the location and the time of the message being sent or received.

2. Privacy features

All Telegram messages are encrypted between you and the Telegram server, but the company in charge of Telegram could technically view your messages on its server if it liked—unless you start a “Secret Chat.” Also, in Telegram, you can’t have a group “Secret Chat.” 

Unlike Telegram, Signal offers encrypted group chats. Here, everything is a secret chat—by default, and always. This app allows users to send and receive messages without revealing the identities of both via a Sealed Senser feature. A great privacy feature that Signal offers is that it gives users the option to block recipients from taking screenshots of a chat, and also gives an option to allow faces on photos to be blurred before they’re sent.

Furthermore, Signal is completely open-source—both the code for the Signal clients and the code for the Signal server can be found on GitHub. The code for Telegram’s apps is open-source, but Telegram’s server software is not open-source.

  • Last seen and online: Signal does not share online while Telegram does. The same applies to last seen as well. However, Telegram users can enable status to share last seen with them.
  • Data collection: Telegram collects limited information about its users like – Phone number, User ID, and contact information. On the other hand, Signal does not collect any other information apart from the user’s phone number.

3. Chat backup

Telegram does not offer backups. Rather all syncs all the chats with its own cloud and channels content between devices. Signal, on the other hand, does not offer any form of cloud backup and stores all the content locally on the device. The only disadvantage with this is that if your device is lost or you switch the phone you won’t be able to recover your old messages as they are stored locally.

All your Signal conversations are stored only on your device by default. In Telegram, they’re stored on Telegram’s servers and can be synchronized between your devices. (You can still use Signal between multiple devices and synchronize messages from one device to another. But you can’t just log into Signal on the web and find all your conversations right there.)

Furthermore, in Telegram, you can have up to 200,000 people in a group chat. In Signal, you can only have up to 1000 people. You can only transfer files up to 100 MB in size. Whereas, in Telegram, you can transfer files up to 2 GB in size. 

The Signal app does not store metadata, logs, or information on its users. It also does not store a record of your contacts, conversations, locations, profile name, avatar, group memberships, or group titles. The only personal data Signal stores is your phone number and do not link it to your identity.

The Best Choice

If you want to target a larger audience then Telegram is the app for you.

Overall, the Telegram app also has a shinier interface, with more available sticker packs, animated stickers, and customizable background images for your conversations. As of January 11, 2021, Signal is working on adding many of these features.

Signal has more security features when compared to Telegram. So this is the best option for people who want the absolute best security and privacy. It doesn’t store any data and that is one of the reasons that many people are flocking towards the app. 

Depending on what matters more to you, you can choose the app you want to move to.

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