Are Telegram And Signal Better Than WhatsApp? A Comparison

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Since WhatsApp introduced a new privacy policy that forces users to share their data with Facebook last week, there has been a renewed interest in WhatsApp alternatives. The main alternatives are Telegram and Signal.

While it may be unlikely that there will a major exodus of users to Telegram and Signal, a significant number of WhatsApp users are considering the two apps.

This article seeks to compare the 3 chat apps objectively to give users a clear picture.

Number of Users

The number of users on an app is important because it shows the likelihood of finding and being able to chat with your contacts on the app. If an app doesn’t have that many users it also means that you may not find people you know on the app so it will not be of much use to you.

According to reports:

  • WhatsApp has over 2 billion users.
  • Telegram has about 500 million users
  • Signal currently has more than 50 million users, most of them added in the past several days following WhatsApp’s privacy policy problems.

Size of Groups

This has long been an issue that people have with WhatsApp. This is because of its strict limit on the size of the group. It makes it unattractive for people looking to do business on the platform.

  • WhatsApp allows only 256 people in a group
  • Telegram allows 200,000 members in a group
  • Signal allows 1,000 members in a group

File sharing, file size

This has also long been a huge problem on WhatsApp because of the limits the company imposes.

  • WhatsApp limits the size of photos, videos and audio files to 16 MB. However all other files and documents have a 100MB limit.
  • Telegram: the limit for file sharing is 2GB
  • Signal file size limit is 100MB
Signal messaging app logo

Security and Privacy

On privacy, Signal offers the most secure of the three. However, it lacks some other features that make the other two apps more usable.

  • WhatsApp: while it offers end to end encryption, it now forces users to share their data with Facebook and Instagram. It is important to know that this data being shared does not include messages. Messages are encrypted and Facebook itself can’t even see them.
  • Telegram: offers end to end encryption of data but also goes further to provide other things such as enabling sharing of a username instead of a phone number.  Telegram’s special secret chats support self-destructing messages and don’t allow forwarding. Telegram also has a screen lock (called a local passcode). Users can choose a pin or passcode, and can additionally use fingerprint or FaceID to unlock the app. 
  • Signal: end-to-end encryption is powered by the open-source Signal Protocol. Like Telegram, Signal has a screen lock Pin for the app, which means that someone who takes your phone can’t even get into your signal without knowing the app’s pin. Like Telegram, it also has self-destructing messages. Unlike WhatsApp, it doesn’t keep any records of its users.

User Data Collection

On Data collection, WhatsApp collects most of the user data with Telegram collecting less and Signal collecting the least.

  • WhatsApp: Device ID, Advertising Data, Purchase History, Location, Phone Number, Email, Contacts, Payment Info, and other user content
  • Telegram collects contact info, Phone number, and the User ID only
  • Signal only collects your phone number, nothing else.

Web and Desktop version

  • WhatsApp: offers a web app and a desktop app but both require that you be logged in on your phone and have it nearby to be able to login
  • Telegram: also has web and desktop app but does not require the phone in order to make the two work
  • Signal: does not have a web version but has a dekstop version.

Conclusion

In terms of the number of features and also security, Telegram is definitely better than WhatsApp. One is also more likely to get some contacts who use Telegram. This is not the case with Signal, which, even though it wins on privacy, security and its minimum data collection, doesn’t have that many users.

Someone who is intent on using Signal will also have to do a lot of work, encouraging their friends, family, work and business contacts to start using the app. This is not an overnight process so they’ll still need to keep WhatsApp as backup.

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