If you’re looking for a way to keep your texting conversations private, choosing your messaging app carefully is crucial. Not all of them are end-to-end encrypted (E2EE), and others may have security holes that compromise your privacy.
Simply put, E2EE means that only you (the sender) and your recipient can see the content of your messages. This, more importantly, excludes all third parties, such as your mobile carrier, Internet Service Provider (ISP), and phone manufacturer. Some users may want this extra layer of protection to prevent outside intrusion from government and other organizations that may try to use your private conversations against you.
All apps listed here are free and offer E2EE, so you can worry less about your privacy. Let’s go.
Signal is one of the best known private messaging apps and it’s my personal reference. It offers a simple and aesthetic interface that makes it easy to use as a replacement for your device’s default messaging app. Signal also describes itself as an “independent, not-for-profit company” that does not contain any ads or trackers in the app. Messages as well as voice and video calls are E2EE on Signal.
Note: On Android, you can also arrange to use Signal for less secure SMS/MMS messaging, but the only way to get full protection in Signal is if both users on each end are using the app. (You don’t have to worry about this if you’re an iPhone user, as you can’t change your default SMS app.)
Telegram is another great secure messaging app. It provides server-client encryption for group and private chats, and you can message with E2EE using Telegram’s Secret Chats feature. Telegram also lets you send self-destructing messages, which disappear after a specific period of time. If you delete your message in a chat, Telegram will also delete it on your recipient’s device.
While Telegram recently rolled out a paid tier that offers faster downloads and larger file uploads, the free version of the app still has a ton of great features. (Oh, and Telegram has a bunch of rad stickers you can use to spruce up your messages.)
Wickr Me is another app with a parent company that might seem off-putting. Amazon Web Services bought Wickr Me last year, but the service is still a solid messaging app that should keep your conversations safe. Although Wickr Me is geared more towards professionals who use the app to communicate with colleagues, that doesn’t mean a typical user can’t use it. The free version of the app allows encrypted personal and group messaging, audio and video calls, and file sharing. It also lets you set timers for messages that disappear.
Wire is a streamlined messaging app with a simple interface that does exactly what you need: send E2EE messages and make E2EE voice and video calls. There are premium paid options as well, but these plans are best suited for businesses looking for a secure collaboration app.
With Viber, you can expect a full messaging experience, with everything you’ll find on a modern messaging app, like stickers, GIFs, and message reactions. It also works much like Telegram in that you can explore and join different channels to stay up to date on topics that interest you. Although it supports E2EE for calls and messages, it’s a bit more cluttered than some of the other apps here – you might see ads and channel recommendations while using it.
The cool thing about Skred is that you don’t need a phone number or email to sign up. Skred also doesn’t use your phone’s contacts to detect if any of your friends are using the app. You can only invite people to the app by having them scan a QR code from your app in person or by sending them the code through another messaging service. Skred supports E2EE messaging as well as voice and video calls.