9 WhatsApp Alternatives That Respect Your Privacy

Since Meta acquired WhatsApp in 2014, privacy experts and security-conscious users have been worried. This culminated in 2021, with the arrival of a new privacy policy by WhatsApp, meant to allow greater sharing with Facebook, including account information, phone numbers, transaction data, and more. As a result, many users are no longer comfortable trusting the app with their personal data. If you are among those uses, you may want to check out our list of the best WhatsApp alternatives that respect your privacy.

Good to know: need to send a high-quality video over WhatsApp? This guide shows you how.

Key Features of a Good WhatsApp Alternative

There are a couple of WhatsApp features that we’re looking to see replicated in these alternatives. One is that they have to feel like modern, clean chat clients, preferably for both mobile and desktop. Another important aspect is that they should offer calling (video and voice).

This is primarily why so many people flock to WhatsApp for their communication needs. Over the years, the Meta-owned app has turned into a sort of FaceTime for Android users. It’s also favored by those making calls outside the US.

While WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption, Meta is in the equation, so it’s difficult to determine what they have access to. Taking these factors into consideration, this guide takes a look at some cleanly designed chat clients with calling and true end-to-end encryption.

1. Element

Platforms: (Android | iOS | Web | Mac | Windows | Linux)

Formerly known as Riot.im, Element uses Matrix as a backend. It’s an excellent chat app for those who like open source from start to finish. Everything from the chat client, chat protocol, and the video conferencing software is open source. This explains why Element is so respectful of your privacy. In the open-source community, people are generally very conscious of their privacy, so they will often look in the source code to make sure the software they’re relying on is safe to use.

Setup is simple: register right from the app without a phone number (a huge plus if you don’t have access to one). The app boasts a visually pleasing user interface, lets you initiate voice and video calls and has optional cross-signing, which helps with device verification.

Element also offers business subscriptions for teams and large companies, starting at $5 per month (per user). This adds extra features, such as self-hosted servers. For the FOSS-to-the-hilt user, we happily recommend Element.

Tip: check for hidden apps on your phone or someone else’s device by following these tips.

2. Wire

Platforms: Android | iOS | Web | Windows | Mac | Linux

Wire is another app that lets you sign up using only your email address. The app uses the Proteus messaging protocol to provide end-to-end encryption for text messages.

Wire app interface overview.

It’s worth noting that both Proteus and the Wire app have been publicly audited, which is something that not too many other apps can currently claim. When it comes to voice and video calls, end-to-end encryption is provided via DTLS with an SRTP handshake. This retains message integrity and prevents eavesdropping and tampering.

Wire packs all the right stuff in its features that are used on a daily basis.. This includes things like group video calling, screen sharing, and self-destructing messages. All this packed into a minimalist but classy looking interface. The app can be accessed for free for personal use, but for enterprise use, you’ll need to pay.

3. Telegram

Platform: Android | iOS | Web | Windows | macOS | Linux

Telegram is perhaps the most worthy alternative to WhatsApp. For starters, the setup is dead simple. It walks you through everything step by step, and it’s super easy to start chatting with your contacts.

Telegram app interface overview.

Plus, it essentially has comparable WhatsApp features, like voice and video messages, a phone number-based login system, stickers, emojis, chatbots, groups, Stories, and extras, such as channels and chat folders. Moreover, Telegram lets you add multiple accounts. In addition, you can easily import your WhatsApp chat into Telegram.

Most importantly, Telegram supports end-to-end encryption for secret chats and calls, as well as two-step verification. Telegram’s client-side code is also open source, allowing security researchers and the community to review the code for potential vulnerabilities. A pro version of the app is available for $6.15 and adds animated emoji, a 4GB upload size, profile badges and more.

4. Signal

Platform: Android | iOS | Windows | macOS | Linux

Signal is another app that gained popularity following the 2021 WhatsApp privacy debacle. Private communication is based on your phone number and the open-source Signal protocol.

Signal app interface overview.

Signal has even received endorsement from notable, albeit somewhat controversial, privacy advocate Edward Snowden. If you’re a supporter, you may want to take this recommendation into consideration. After all, there’s a lot to like here.

The app strikes the perfect balance of private and still fun to use. As an alternative to WhatsApp, Signal offers most of the features you’d expect, including 2FA, disappearing messages, and secure communication verification. The app also allows you to set voice calls to connect through Signal servers instead of connecting directly to your contacts. This hides your IP address, which can prove useful in some cases.

Tip: did you know that you can send an SMS via your PC? We demonstrate how.

5. Delta Chat

Platform: Android | iOS | Web | Windows | macOS | Linux

Delta Chat is an app that allows you to chat over email. Technically, this means the messages you send from the app will be sent as email to the recipient. They don’t even need the Delta Chat app to view it. This is how Delta Chat allows you to message virtually everyone – you just need their email address. They can choose to reply through their email client, and you’ll see their replies in Delta Chat. Pretty convenient, right?

Delta app interface overview.

Delta may not look as modern as the other chat apps on this list, but it does not involve centralized tracking and control. Surprisingly, it offers some customization options, such as the ability to add wallpaper and to change the font size.

The app sets up end-to-end encryption automatically when a chat starts. You can set an amount of time after which your messages will get deleted from the server, as well as the app. Users can add as many accounts to Delta Chat as they want and can even use the app without a phone number. It’s definitely worth a try. But if you’re looking for an app that enables you to do voice and video calling, skip this one, as these options are not available in Delta.

6. Conversations

Platform: Android

Conversations is a messaging and VoIP app that will charge you $3.99. While paying a couple of bucks for an app may seem strange in this day and age (especially on Android), if your main concern is privacy, then the investment may be worth it.

Conversation app interface overview.

Conversations is a free and open-source app based on the Jabber/XMPP protocols. The company uses its own XMPP server and promises to “never upload data to the developer.” The fact that the app is open source means that anyone can go on GitHub to see what’s contained in the code (e.g., check for dodgy privacy issues) and make contributions themselves. It’s an app committed to being open.

You don’t need to use a Google account or phone number with Conversations – just set an XMPP provider and username. The app demands very few permissions (though, of course, it will require camera and microphone access if you want to use its video and voice features). It is very easy on the battery, too, due to its uncluttered interface. For each chat, you get to choose the kind of encryption (OMEMO or OpenPGP) you want, if at all.

FYI: learn how to change your default messaging app on Android.

7. Threema

Platform: Android | iOS | Web | Windows | Mac | Linux

Threema is another paid WhatsApp alternative. Available for $5.59, it can be used completely anonymously, without you having to share anything you don’t want to, such as your email or phone number.

Like many of the entries on this list, Threema is open-source, and its software code can be viewed by anyone. The app can be used to make end-to-end encrypted voice and video calls, as well as to create polls. Android users can also take advantage of distribution lists, which let you send messages to multiple recipients.

With Threema, your metadata is kept to a minimum. For instance, the app notes that it doesn’t keep records of who exchanges messages with whom.

8. Session

Platform: Android | iOS | Windows | Mac | Linux

Session is an interesting app that made it to our list. It touts itself as a private messenger. It features end-to-end encryption and focuses on reducing the amount of sensitive metadata it absorbs. The app works without a phone number or email address and won’t save or store your IP address details.

Session app interface overview.

Session is an open-source messaging alternative that creates a session ID to allow you to connect with others. The app uses a decentralized network of servers to route your messages. On top of that, the app boasts an appealing interface and comes with various handy options, such as voice (group) calls, voice notes, session lock, disappearing messages and more.

In addition, the app lets you customize its appearance with various themes and different accent colors. Once you’re done chatting with someone and want to close the session, press the red “Clear Data” button from your profile.

9. iMessage

Platform: iOS | Mac

iMessage is Apple’s own instant messaging service that sends texts using your Internet connection. If you have an iOS or Mac device (it’s called Messages there), this app should be on your device by default, which is convenient if you don’t want to download another app to your already cluttered phone or computer.

Private Whatsapp Alternatives Imessages

Not surprisingly, iMessage is a rather secure messaging app. It features end-to-encryption for both group and private chats, but that happens only as long as you’re sending messages to other iMessage users. This protocol is reinforced by Apple devices including a hardware component called Secure Enclave to store encryption keys and perform cryptographic operations. It adds an extra layer of security to the encryption process and protects user data from unauthorized access. However, you can also send SMS with iMessage, but those won’t be encrypted.

iMessage supports many handy features, including the ability to create audio notes, video calls, app integrations and more. It also offers two-factor authentication to further secure your Apple ID.

Tip: learn how to use iMessage on your Windows PC with Phone Link.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I save my WhatsApp conversations?

You can export your WhatsApp chat history in TXT format from the app. If you’re switching to a WhatsApp alternative, check whether it allows you to import your chats from WhatsApp. Telegram is one app that has this feature.

What are the dangers of using WhatsApp?

One of the primary issues with the popular messaging app is that it’s now owned by Meta (formerly Facebook) and suffers many of the same privacy dangers as its parent company. This is perhaps one of the chief reasons a large number of users have chosen to migrate to different platforms.

With Meta and its dubious practices aside, WhatsApp still suffers from other security risks. For instance, WhatsApp Web can be a rich ground for cybercriminal activity, such as hackers passing off malicious software as WhatsApp desktop applications. Besides that, WhatsApp is known to have been implicated in the spread of fake news and information in various regions across the world. Fortunately, the company did implement a few changes meant to discourage these practices, such as putting limits on forwarding. Even so, the possibility of getting random messages of a dubious nature still looms.

Who can see my phone number after using it to sign in to a WhatsApp alternative?

That depends on the app you’re using. For instance, Telegram lets you limit the visibility of your phone number to yourself. You can do that from “Settings -> Privacy & Security-> Phone number.” On Signal, this option is not available, however. Check your app’s settings to see whether you can make your phone number private to hide it from the people you’ve added as contacts on the app.

Image credit: Freepik. All screenshots by Alexandra Arici.

Alexandra Arici
Alexandra Arici

Alexandra is passionate about mobile tech and can be often found fiddling with a smartphone from some obscure company. She kick-started her career in tech journalism in 2013, after working a few years as a middle-school teacher. Constantly driven by curiosity, Alexandra likes to know how things work and to share that knowledge with everyone.

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