The 7 Best Encrypted Messaging Apps for Android
Most of us couldn’t live without messaging apps. Whether we’re talking to family, friends, or colleagues, these apps keep us communicating no matter where we are in the world. As convenient as messaging apps are, they can also lead to privacy issues. Messages you think are private might be read by third parties, or the app provider may keep logs of your conversations.
To secure the messages you send, you need an encrypted messaging app.
What is encrypted messaging?
Encrypted messaging refers to text messaging apps or programs that use end-to-end encryption. Also known as secure messaging, encrypted messaging prevents anyone other than you and your intended recipient(s) from seeing your message.
Encryption itself is not a new concept — it goes back millennia, to the time of Julius Caesar. Encryption is simply using a cipher to convert information into unreadable characters and symbols. Only someone with the key to encrypted info can “unlock” or decrypt it and read the real message.
Modern encrypted messaging relies on this simple principle. However, today’s encryption methods are so complex that they cannot be cracked without the key. For this reason, encrypted messaging apps are considered secure and private.
Besides encryption, what makes a secure messaging app secure?
Features to look for in secure messaging apps
- End-to-end encryption
- Doesn’t keep messages in phone’s permanent storage
- Self-destructing messages
- Multi-mode communication (you can send text messages as well as photos, GIFs, and other files)
- Synchronization across devices
One thing to keep in mind with secure messaging apps: typically both users have to download and use the app for messages to be encrypted.
The 7 best encrypted messaging apps for Android
Signal is one of the most popular secure messaging apps on the market. Millions of people use Signal because it’s made end-to-end encryption a standard for secure messaging. The app also encrypts voice calls and allows users to set up custom disappearing message intervals for each conversation. Signal is an open-source project so anyone can look at the code and ensure security gaps are plugged up right away. It’s not funded by ads or affiliate marketing, either. Signal relies solely on donations and grants, so there’s no ad tracking. Finally, only users have the keys to decrypt messages — Signal doesn’t keep anything. With its transparency and user-friendliness, Signal is a favorite secure messaging app for the security-conscious.
Telegram is another popular secure messaging app because it has a sleeker user interface than some of its competitors. Telegram’s end-to-end encryption feature isn’t activated by default, however, so you’ll have to turn on Secret Mode in the app to ensure your messages are secure. The Secret Mode chats are only accessible from their device of origin as well, so you can’t see them even if you’ve installed Telegram on more than one device.
One of the biggest perks of Threema is that you don’t need a phone number or email address to sign up. You get a unique Threema ID key when you launch the app, and you can add other users with a scannable QR code. All forms of messaging — text, voice, picture, and video — are encrypted on Threema. You can also share files through the app and generate polls in group conversations. Unlike some of its competitors, Threema isn’t free to download, however. It costs $3.
WhatsApp is one of the most widely used messaging apps in the world, with over 2 billion users. The app also uses the end-to-end encryption protocol developed by Signal. Many people hesitate to use WhatsApp, however, because it’s owned by Facebook, a company not well regarded for privacy. And while Facebook can’t read your messages (those are encrypted) it can log other data, such as your location. If the Facebook ownership factor doesn’t give you pause, then WhatsApp is a solid choice for an encrypted messaging app. It provides multi-mode communication and someone you know probably already uses it.
Silence is based on Signal, as they both use the same encryption methods. Like Signal, Silence is open source and regularly vetted by security experts. Unlike Signal, Silence doesn’t use Internet-based chat but works with SMS/MMS instead. That means you can use it without Wi-Fi or an Internet connection, but your phone company can also see who you’re texting. Silence has a few extra layers of security as well, like requiring a passphrase to unlock the app and preventing recipients from screenshotting messages.
Viber encrypts voice and video chats on mobile devices and major desktop operating systems. Viber’s end-to-end encryption supports group chats as well as one-on-one communications. The app also has a unique color-coding security feature to easily let you know if a chat is secure. Green means your chat is secure and the contact is trusted. Gray means your chat is encrypted but the contact is not trusted. And red means there is a problem authenticating the contact. Viber also lets you delete seen messages, make HD video calls, and create unlimited-sized group chats.
The Wickr Me messaging app allows users to send self-destructing texts, photos, videos, and voice messages to their contacts. The app relies on a strong encryption protocol and deletes metadata such as geotags and time stamps. You also don’t need a phone number or email address to sign up — it’s completely anonymous. Wickr Me can work for professional users as it has several collaboration and integration features. If you just want an app for secure messaging, though, stick with the free version of Wickr Me.
Take back your privacy encrypted messaging apps
There are plenty of reasons to use encrypted messaging apps, but the number-one reason they’ve become so popular is that people just like to have privacy. If you’re a privacy-minded, security-conscious individual, then an encrypted messaging app is definitely for you.
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