Sunday, March 02, 2014

Looking For a WhatsApp Alternative? Check Out These 5 Interesting Alternatives

WhatsApp has been under fire since it was purchased by Facebook. Want to change? Check out the following 5 alternatives for WhatsApp alternatives.

Telegram Messenger (free)

This Russian app is very similar to WhatsApp in appearance and use. According to the company, it is the most downloaded app in 11 countries.

Telegram focuses on privacy and has developed its own security protocol. Telegram offers a reward of 200,000 USD for anyone able to breach its system. Telegram is free of charge. It’s funded by Pavel Durov, who made his fortune with the sale of Vkontakte, the Russian Facebook.

Advantages: Messages can be erased automatically after a few minutes (similar to SnapChat). In contrast to WhatsApp, there is also a desktop version.

Disadvantages: Telegram was plagued with problems due to the many new users. Many messages were received after hours, even after one day.

Threema (one-time payment of Euro 1.79)

This Swiss app ranks number one among the paid apps. Users can send each other text messages, images and videos. It is available for iOS and Android. There are currently over 400,000 users worldwide.

The name Threema stands for End-to-End Encrypted Messaging Application. It means that Threema uses an encryption method that allows users to automatically encrypt their own messages. Even Threema itself cannot access the messages, not even when ordered to do so by the government.

Advantages: Messages not delivered to users are kept for up to 7 days on Threema’s servers. WhatsApp keeps them for 30 days. All Threema’s servers are located in Switzerland. The company therefore has to comply with the strict Swiss privacy and data protection laws. Servers are out of reach for agencies such as the NSA.

Disadvantages: Sending messages is slower than via Telegram Messenger, and similar to WhatsApp. Most users (80%) are located in the DACH countries.

Line (free)

This Japanese app is very popular in Asia with 360 million users worldwide. Line does not sell itself as a privacy-app, but promises never to sell personal information. Line also states that it sporadically collects demographic data. Line is free of charge. The company generates income from the sales of stickers and games.

Advantages: Line can also be used for high-quality phone calls. Contacts can be added based on their telephone numbers or usernames. Users can talk with strangers without having to share their telephone number. Users can also subscribe to messages of celebrities. Line has an extensive collection of images that users can send. There is also a desktop version of Line.

Disadvantages: Most users are located in Asia.

Hemlis (basic will be free)

This message app is developed by Peter Sunde, one of the founders of the download site The Pirate Bay. The app is free, but there there will be a charge for extras. Hemlis (which is Swedish for secret) keeps all sent messages on its own server until received by the recipient. The company refuses to say which encryption method it uses.

Advantages: The app is free of charge. Hemlis is crowdfunded. According to Hemlis, its privacy is better than that of WhatsApp. Hemlis does not allow advertising.

Disadvantages: It is not clear when the app will be launched. The company did not say how messages will be encrypted. As it looks now, sending text messages will be free and sending images will be charged.

Silent Circle
(starting at 10 USD per month)

This US app is “spy free”. It’s the brainchild of Navy SEALs and Silicon Valley cryptography experts. Silent Circle charges 10 USD a month for the apps that encrypt the communication. Users are currently mainly in the US. The company is currently entering the European market. Communication is directly encrypted on the sender’s phone, and is decrypted on the recipient's phone. Between the two phones, the signal is gibberish - even for the provider. After communication is received, encryption is removed and cannot be recovered.

Advantages: Excellent security. The service was originally developed for diplomats, business executives, journalists, and army personnel working in countries with disreputable governments.

Disadvantages: Expensive.

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