Signal App Review – Best Privacy Messaging App

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Is it the best and most secure instant messaging app? It certainly claims to be so.

Now, if you need an instant messenger, one that the govt. Can’t threaten (literally, you’ll soon see why), this piece is for you.

I wouldn’t make a judgment right away. I’ve discussed everything that the app prides itself on in this review.

Now, I sure have shared my very subjective thoughts at the very end of this review. However, to understand what they’re based off of, do go through this review.

What is Signal?

If you’re on this Signal app review, you clearly are new to Signal. An introduction is in the order I suppose?

On the surface, Signal is just a completely free instant messaging app. Something that’s similar to Telegram or Whatsapp, just with tons of added privacy and security features.

It’s so secure that the World’s richest man, the genius, billionaire, philanthropist Elon Musk urged his followers to start using Signal last year.

Signal app review

We will share the finer details of its security and other features throughout this review.

  • End-to-End encrypted

This is probably the biggest features/reasons why anyone would use Signal.

Eng-to-End encryption is exactly what it sounds like, encrypted from one end to the  other.

The two ends here are:

  • The sender
  • The receiver.

E2E encryption ensures that the conversation remains only between these two parties. This is technically guaranteed.

Meaning, it’s not up to the ethics or morals of Signal. It’s technically impossible for Signal to access your messages or conversations. It can’t do that even if it wanted to.

The same privacy also extends to law enforcement. Meaning, even if the law wanted and maybe even forced Signal, there’s no way they can access your messages. (Do read the “Signal vs. FBI” section on this review to understand how even the FBI couldn’t break Signal).

  • Open source

Another major feather in Signal’s cap is it being open-source. You can audit the entire Signal code here.

This is a massive trust-booster, isn’t it? Signal has laid out its core out in the public. This means they can not hide backdoors or lie about their features/security or anything else.

You can see everything that Signal claims to offer and then verify how much of it is true.

Not just that, Signal has even been audited independently and the test results were more than impressive.  

None of Signal’s competitors have any independent audit which clearly gives it a major edge, doesn’t it?

  • Call Relay

Signal has this “call relay” option.

In simpler words, it hides your IP address when making calls. Your IP address is probably the biggest identity leak on the web. It can be used to identify your location, identity, browsing habits, personal favourites  and so much more.

With most other apps, you’d have to employ third-party tools such as a VPN to achieve this. Obviously, the VPN also offers additional benefits, however, Signal’s “Call relay” does get the job done.

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  • Censorship Circumvention

This is another unique feature that no other Signal alternative offers at the moment.

There’s this setting called “Censorship circumvention”. It lets you access Signal even if it’s being actively banned by your ISP/government.

  • No ads or tracking

One of the primary reasons why Acton left Facebook was his disagreement over Mark’s ideas about Whatsapp monetization.

It’s good to see that he’s a man of his word, as a result, you don’t see ads on Signal. There are no ads, tracking or any other “personalization” (read: data collection) tricks.

  • Registration

Registration is the first step you’ll go through when using Signal.

Alike most other mobile messaging apps, Signal too requires your mobile number to sign up. It also needs contact access. These are the only two pieces of information required to sign up at Signal.

However, do note that this data (your contact info) too is E2E encrypted and hence never visible to Signal.

There’s no form to fill, no e-mail to verify and nothing else of that nature. So yes, I’d say the registration

  • User Interface

The UI decides how friendly or frustrating using the app feels like.

This is what Signal would look like when you first launch it:

Signal app review

So, you can add people simply by clicking that pencil icon. It shows you your contacts and you can choose any one of them to text.

Similarly, you can also create a “new group”. You can add multiple participants from your contact list to this group.

You must have noticed the “stories” button. It’s similar to Whatsapp “status”. It’s a public broadcast that you send to all your contacts.

  • Other primary features

Apart from the technicalities and advantages mentioned above, Signal obviously has more common messaging features.

  • Read and view receipts: Just like Whatsapp, Signal too has receipts both for messages as well as stories. Again, if you disable these receipts, you can’t see when others view your messages or stories either.
  • Typing indicators: I’m sure you know what these are. These indicators tell you when the other person is typing. Disabling this also disables this for you, meaning, you wouldn’t be notified when the other person is typing either.
  • Disappearing messages: Messages disappear once they’re read after you’ve enabled this feature. You can select from over half a dozen time-frames. The minimum time is 30 seconds and the maximum time is 4 weeks.

Signal app review

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  • Disable screenshots: You can disable screenshots.
  • Incognito keyboard: This is a feature that no other direct Signal competitor offers. So, you can disable your keyboard from collecting data about you. The data generally includes common words, autofill data etc.
  • Video calls: yes, this exists (and the quality is real good).
  • Voice notes: Again, exist.

Aesthetic features

Now, these features do not contribute towards any practical benefits. However, they make your Signal look good. Leaving these out wouldn’t be fair, would it? You can find all of these under the “Appearance” setting:

  • Theme: You can basically choose from a light/dark theme
  • Font size: Yes, lets you do exactly what you think it does.
  • Language: Signal is available in over a dozen languages.
  • Emojis & stickers: It supports emojis as well. You can use system stickers or create your own.

Signal Anonymous Payments (MobileCoin)

So, Whatsapp recently rolled out payments as well. However, those are UPI payments. Completely traceable.

Signal on the other hand is currently testing (in the Beta phase) a much more anonymous form of payment. It’s a Cryptocurrency called “MobileCoin”.

It’s anonymous in the sense that Signal has no knowledge of the sender, receiver, or the transferred amount.

The currency can be loaded onto your Signal wallet by sending it from an exchange. You must first acquire it on a supported exchange independently.

Compatibility

Signal is compatible with the following devices:

  • Android phones, iOS phones and Desktop computers (mac / Linux and obviously Windows).

That pretty much is everywhere you’d want to access it, isn’t it?

Signal vs. The FBI

This section is pretty important for this review.

All of Signal’s competitors “claim” they’re private, secure, they respect privacy and what not.

However, when the law strikes, they’re more than happy to share data and break every boundary to privacy. This leaked FBI document proved how Whatsapp and iMessage willingly shared data with the feds.

On the other hand, apps like Signal didn’t (couldn’t) share data even when forced and subpoenaed by the FBI. This is because Signal truly doesn’t log data and hence there was nothing to share.

Signal fought hard and strong just to be able to make this subpoena request public, which the govt. initially wanted kept confidential. Once Signal won, they showed the world how the only data Signal shared was the account creation date, and last login date.

Hey, considering what the other companies are sharing, I believe Signal’s commitment to privacy is more than commendable. Don’t you?

In fact, Edward Snowden, the guy who opened the CIA’s Pandora’s box lauded Signal as well!

Signal app review

Is Signal Better Than Whatsapp?

Signal is essentially offering what Whatsapp does, just with better security. But, how vast is that difference? Is it really worth the switch?

Yes. On three major points (and dozens of minor features).

From a security perspective, they both do offer E2E encryption. However, Signal hides the metadata of your conversation, this is something you don’t get with Whatsapp.

The metadata  is basically additional details about your message, such as time of the message, sender’s name, size or other such details. So, except the actual contents of the message, Whatsapp still has quite a bit of data on you.

Then, Signal is open-source. Anyone can audit its code and verify its privacy, security or any other claims. Whatsapp isn’t open source and we just have to take their word for their privacy/security claims.

Finally, Whatsapp is owned by Meta (formerly Facebook). Facebook is ill-famous for sharing data with third-parties, not having concern for individual privacy and so much more.

Signal on the other hand is a non-profit organization. More interestingly, Signal’s co-founder is the same guy who created Whatsapp and sold it to Meta.

As far as messaging features go, Signal is no way less. It has stickers, calls, video calls and everything else that Whatsapp offers.

All in all, Signal definitely seems like the better option of the two.

Is Signal Superior to Telegram?

The other major Signal competitor apart from Whatsapp is obviously Telegram. The same question arises, which is better of the two?

The same benefits apply here as well. Signal is again a non-profit organization while Telegram isn’t. In fact, Telegram recently launched “Telegram Premium” which offers some features only to those who pay.

Signal is open source, Telegram isn’t. Signal has been independently audited, Telegram hasn’t been

So in a nutshell, Signal definitely has a few edges Telegram doesn’t have.

Frequently Asked Question (FAQ):

Here are a few frequently asked questions about Signal:

  • Is Signal a safe app?

If you consider an app that fought the FBI and literally has no data to share “safe”, then yes Signal is definitely a safe app.

  • Is Signal Russian owned?

A common misconception is that Signal is owned by Russia. This may be due to one of the co-founders name being Moxie Marlinspike, which may sound like a Russian name to many.

No, Signal isn’t a Russian app and it’s HQ’d in the USA.

  • How can signal be safe and free at the same time?

Signal may be free but it also enjoys many other benefits. E.g. it’s run by a tax exempt, non-profit organization which brings down their costs. Then, they do accept donations.

Final Words:

That would be all for this Signal review folks. I do hope I’ve shed light at most, if not all the important features the app brings to us.

I’m generally unbiased and neutral in my reviews. I leave scope for you to decide for yourselves. However, that’s not the case here.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that Signal is 100% a better alternative than Whatsapp or Telegram. If you haven’t switched yet, do that right about now.

You do not miss out on almost any features, and the security you get is far more than what any other Signal competitors offer.

Do help a friend out, share this Signal app review with them eh?

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Nagama Ansari is a well-known blogger and digital marketer, working in the industry from several year, and has written more than 1000+ well-researched information guides and product testing review articles. Since 2014 working mainly at my two blogs techlazy.com and crazyask.com. A native of U.P. (INDIA)