End-to-end encryption is a system of communication where your chats are only readable by you and the recipient(s). This prevents all third parties from eavesdropping on your conversations: from the government, telecom providers, and even the tech team of the app itself.
You might not know if your messenger is encrypted or not – you might not even care.
But, encryption protocols are an important feature that every chat app should have, especially if it’s marketing itself as secure.
Secure messaging apps have become increasingly popular and many people are turning to them over other apps like Messenger and Instagram, which have already been under scrutiny for their lack of data safety.
We tried the most popular encrypted chat apps and have come up with a ranking, going through all of their features and potential downsides.
The best encrypted messaging apps
What to look for in your encrypted chat app?
When you’re considering an encrypted chat app, you should make sure it performs well on several criteria.
UX and ease of use: we’ve all used messengers before, and secure messengers should be no different than regular ones when it comes to the UI design trends that are being used. Everything should be easy to do and find, from setting up your account to adding people and managing contacts.
File sharing options: most messengers put limits on the size of files you can upload and share. Some even go as far as to have different limits for different types of files. Where are those files stored when you share them with your contacts? Does the app have a secure file transfer? All these are important questions you should ask.
Team chat features: you’ll likely want your encrypted chat app to have good group chat features. Whether you need that to improve team communication at work or organize a group of friends, it should be easy to add and remove people to and from group chats. Additional features like polls also won’t hurt.
Voice and video calling: messaging apps nowadays are next to useless without voice and video call features. They all have different limits when it comes to how many people can be on the call at the same time. Some also have higher quality calls than others.
Security protocols: finally, encryption isn’t the only security measure a chat app should have. Quirks like disappearing messages and secret chats are always nice to have, along with some more serious protocols like admin controls, open-source code, etc. This is especially important if you’re planning to have any sort of business conversations on your encrypted chat app. If you are concerned about sending highly sensitive data digitally, you might want to top off your app with an external VPN for an extra layer of security.
So, having in mind all of these things we listed above, here is our list of best encrypted messaging apps you can get right now.
If security is your number one concern, then Brosix should be at the top of your list. Through a high level of admin control and smart use of security features, we’ve made Brosix as safe as possible for professional as well as private communication.
“Admin control” simply means that you’re in charge. Adding users, giving privileges, restricting access to chats and even features – all of this is in your hands. You access these settings in the Web Control Panel, where you can set the tone for your entire organization and the way it handles team communication.
This, combined with industry-leading encryption protocols, makes Brosix one of the most secure encrypted group chats on this list.
You also get a lot of advanced features, especially the ones designed with team collaboration in mind. For example, video calls have the share screen feature that allows the other person on the call to take control over your desktop. This can be useful for tutorials, training, or any sort of highly collaborative call. There is also the Whiteboard feature that can help you add a completely new dimension to your presentations in real-time.
Why should I get Brosix?
What makes Brosix stand out on this list isn’t just the data safety that lies in your hands. It’s also the attention to detail that focuses on the chat experience and cuts down on distractions. With Brosix, your entire chat history is saved, there is no limit. You can also search this history not only by keywords but by date as well. There is no limit when it comes down to file upload size, either.
So, if you’re looking for an encrypted group chat with team collaboration tools, Brosix is likely the best choice on this list.
Signal is run as an NGO, so it’s completely free, has no ads, and makes no money from acquiring new users. Its sole goal is to make messaging safer, ad-free, and reliable for its users. It also has an open-source code that’s peer-reviewed and open for inspection on GitHub.
Starting with Signal is fairly easy – you download it from the App Store or Google Play Store, enter your phone number, and activate the app when you get a confirmation code. That’s the only knock against Signal when it comes to safety: you have to give up your phone number.
The app sports a standard messenger design where clicking on a person’s name starts a conversation with them. You can also create group chats where you can easily add and remove people. Unfortunately, that’s the end of Signal’s collaboration features, so if you need those, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
One of Signal’s signature features are disappearing messages – you can send a message to someone and select for how long that message will be visible to both of you.
Why should I get Signal?
Signal is one of the best private messengers out there. It doesn’t have too many advanced features but it does its basic job perfectly. It’s also becoming more popular, so you can expect it to have even more users next year.
The app also doubles as your default messenger, so you don’t have to convince all your friends to switch to Signal. You can simply set Signal as your default SMS app and send them Signal messages that they’ll see as standard SMS.
Depending on where you live, chances are that Viber is one of the first apps you install on your new smartphone. The app has more than 1.17 billion users worldwide, making it one of the most popular instant messengers in the world.
One of the features Viber is most famous for is the high-quality calls you can make and receive. Whether it’s a video or voice call, Viber handles them pretty well. You can even seamlessly transfer calls from your smartphone to your desktop app in a matter of seconds.
Viber prides itself on its security features. On their website, they state that Viber is the only globally available messenger that offers the following four security features:
- End-to-end encryption;
- Deleting sent messages;
- Secret chat with disappearing messages;
- Hidden chats.
Hidden chats are especially interesting, as they allow you to create a completely private chat with a person or group that only you can access, using a PIN you created.
The app also has a wide range of popular stickers, both free and available for purchase. Along with customizable backgrounds, these stickers allow you to personalize your chat experience and have fun while communicating safely.
Why should I get Viber?
With such a large number of users, Viber is the primary means of communication for many people. On that alone, you might have enough incentive to install Viber and chat with your friends.
However, like Signal, Viber has little team chat options and advanced features. If you’re looking for an instant messenger that will allow for any type of collaboration, Viber won’t be the best choice.
Popular in Germany and Russia, Telegram is a chat app founded by brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov in 2013. In addition to end-to-end encryption, the app offers a range of other security features that make it a popular choice in the encrypted chat arena.
Telegram has chats, Group chats, and Channels. While chats and group chats are something that most messengers offer, Channels are almost unique to Telegram. In Channels, you can join a large community of people gathered around a common topic. Like regular chat, Channels are encrypted chat rooms.
The app uses its encryption protocol and has opened some of its source code (not all) for public review. However, not all chats on Telegram are encrypted – only the Secret chats are. These chats have other added security features like screenshot notifications.
Another useful feature that Telegram offers is the Instant View. With it, you can view any links you receive without opening them. That’s because everything is cached on Telegram’s servers, so the loading time is almost zero.
Like Viber, Telegram also has a fun collection of stickers and even motivates users to create their own.
Why should I use Telegram?
Telegram is similar to Signal, only it allows for more customization, so if you like to personalize your chat, Telegram will be the better option. Channels are also a nice added feature that inspires a sense of community and can make chatting fun.
However, Telegram isn’t as safe as others on this list, since not all conversations are encrypted by default.
Although it might not come to mind when we’re talking about secure messaging apps, Whatsapp does use end-to-end encryption. In theory, this puts it above Messenger and Instagram, although Whatsapp isn’t without its safety concerns.
Like Viber, it’s extremely popular – it got to two billion users this February.
Since it’s one of the pioneers in the instant messaging field, Whatsapp popularized the messenger design we’re all familiar with. Both smartphone and desktop apps are easy to use and all settings are easy to find. You can try and enhance this experience by downloading wallpapers or changing your theme.
Whatsapp also has the Disappearing messages feature, something not a lot of people know about. Unlike other secure messengers, Whatsapp doesn’t allow you to select how long your message will remain visible – the default is seven days.
To use Whatsapp on your desktop, you have two options: the web client and the desktop app. The former doesn’t require you to download the app, you can simply scan the QR code that shows up on your screen with your phone, and you’re all set. Web and desktop apps work fine but they do have some limitations that you won’t find on your smartphone. For example, you can’t delete sent messages, create groups, or leave your current groups.
One of Whatsapp’s biggest downsides is file sharing. Your maximum file size for uploads is 16 MB for media and 100 MB for files. While that may be enough for low-res videos and photos taken by phone, it won’t be of much use for job-related communication. Job-related communication is the key of any office, but employees also need to be able to access their files securely. Get your file sharing done securely and get a folder security report so you know who has accessed what information.
Why should I use Whatsapp?
The main appeal of Whatsapp is its popularity. It’s officially the most used messaging app in the world, so chances are that your friends are already on it.
In terms of data safety and team communication, Whatsapp offers little compared to some of the other entries on this list.
Founded in 2012 by a group of security experts, Wickr takes data safety very seriously. Some of the features that we were first introduced to with Snapchat found their new life in Wicker, who then took all of this to the next level.
The FBI contacted Wickr to install a backdoor into their app and were instantly met with strong opposition.
In addition to having layers of encryption, Wickr has several safety features that help you chat with your friends with no worries about who has access to your data. Although the app does require your email or phone number to create an account, its founders are very clear that none of this information ever goes through Wickr’s hands.
Wickr has disappearing messages whose lifespan you can set however you want – from three seconds to six days. If a message is undelivered or unread, it gets deleted automatically. Images and videos have the same lifespan as your text messages, and you can take in-app video and voice notes that can be up to 30 seconds long.
Perhaps as an effort to be more competitive with Snapchat, Wickr allows you to doodle on photos, crop them, add thought bubbles, and edit them in a lot of ways.
Why should I use Wickr?
Using Wickr, you get a sense that it was created for slightly paranoid users whose paramount concern is safety. This creates an extremely secure environment but also extremely limiting.
For example, all your files are stored within the app and you can’t take a screenshot, so if you want to save a file, ask your friend to send it through a different service.
How do you know that Threema uses end-to-end encryption? Easy – it’s right there in the name!
EEEMA stands for “End-to-End Messaging Applications” and the “Three E” is a cute wordplay. It has more than four million users worldwide and it’s introduced an enterprise messaging service called Threema Work to equip the business sector with an encrypted workplace chat.
What makes Threema stand out from similar apps is the fact that you don’t need to enter your phone number or your email to create an account. Once you download and launch the app, you create a key pair. That’s a private and a public key that the app randomly generates, which is essential for encryption. Your Threema ID is tied to your public key.
Threema has little advanced security features. There are no secret chats, disappearing messages, and similar options. There are, however, advanced team chat options like polls. If you want to get more serious with team collaboration, you can go for Threema Work. With it, you can define policies, revoke IDs, and restrict access to future chats for an employee that’s leaving the company.
Why should I use Threema?
If you need an encrypted chat app that doesn’t require you to enter your number or email, Threema could be a good option. The encrypted group chats are also well done and polls are a handy feature for quick organization.
Mattermost is a team chat app that’s often compared to Slack. However, unlike Slack, all of its code is open-source. You might remember that we mentioned only one of the apps on this list as open-source: Signal.
We can think of Mattermost as a marriage between Slack and SIgnal – a team chat app that focuses on safety while sacrificing some of its functionality in the process.
Mattermost has a similar user interface that we see in Slack. The channels are on the far left, the chats are in the middle of the screen, and threads are on the right. The navigation bar on the left is split into three main sections: Favorite channels, Public channels, and Private channels.
To make sure your communication is as safe as possible, Mattermost allows you to choose between a cloud-based and self-managed option. If you go for the self-managed one, everything is set up on your premises and all data is stored in your data center.
There is a claim on their website that sums the app up pretty well: “Cool enough for Bungie. Secure enough for the US Army”. Companies that have compliance as a priority will find Mattermost useful.
Unfortunately, Mattermost underperforms when it comes to team communication tools. For example, it doesn’t offer to have video call options built-in. Instead, the platform integrates with Zoom to offer this service.
Why should I use Mattermost
If you don’t care too much about more complex features and you want to have all of your communication set up locally, you can try Mattermost. It’s a simple platform that focuses on safety but offers little anything else.
Voxer is a unique entry on this list: it’s a walkie-talkie smartphone app that enables real-time voice communication. It allows you to create a private network with up to 500 users, where you can control privacy settings, add and remove users, and assign admins.
Voxer works as a regular team chat app as well. You have a group and one-one chats, voice-to-text transcription, message forwarding, and other similar features. All of this is done with the help of end-to-end encryption.
Its trademark feature (its USP, really) is walkie-talkie mode that turns your smartphone into a two-way radio. Unlike on Whatsapp, where you receive a voice message that you can listen to later, on Voxer, you can listen to people as they speak. You can also save the message to listen to it later, at your convenience.
It has four pricing plans: Personal, Pro, Business, and Enterprise. If your team has more than 20 people, you’ll have to invest in at least the Business plan.
Why should I get Voxer?
Although the walkie-talkie mode is an oddly specific feature, some industries can benefit from such a solution. According to testimonials and use cases from Voxer’s website, hospitality, transportation, delivery, construction, and many other fields have found it very useful.
The best encrypted messaging apps: summary
Depending on your priorities, you might find some of these messengers more useful than others. We’ll assume that safety is one of those priorities – we’re looking at encrypted apps, after all.
In our opinion, it all comes down to two apps: Brosix and Signal. If you need a private messenger and you want nothing more from it, Signal is simple, easy to set up, and its code is open-source. If you don’t like the idea of entering your phone number, you can also go with Threema, although it doesn’t have as many safety features.
We hope this article was helpful for you and brought you an idea of some of the most popular Encrypted Messaging Apps.
About the author:
Andreyana Kulina is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Brosix, specializing in Content marketing and outreach strategies. Besides her passion for digital marketing, she likes hiking and mountain-biking.
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