If you’re looking for a way to keep your conversations private via text, it’s important to choose your messaging app carefully. Not all of them are end-to-end encrypted (E2EE), and others may have security flaws that compromise your privacy.
Simply put, E2EE means that only you (the sender) and your recipient can see the content of your messages. This primarily excludes third parties such as your wireless service provider, internet service provider (ISP) and phone manufacturer. Some users may want that extra layer of protection to prevent snooping by the government and other outside organizations who might try to use your private conversations against you.
All the apps listed here are free and offer E2EE, so you don’t have to worry about your privacy as much. Let’s get into that.
Signal is one of the most well-known private messaging apps and is my personal go-to place. It offers a simple, aesthetically pleasing interface that makes it easy to use as a replacement for your device’s default messaging app. Signal also describes itself as an “independent non-profit company” that does not have ads or trackers in the app. Messages, voice and video calls are E2EE on Signal.
A note: in Android you can also use Signal for less secure SMS/MMS messages, but the only way to get full protection in Signal is if both users on both sides use the app. (You don’t have to worry about this if you’re an iPhone user though, as you can’t change your default SMS app.)
Telegram is another great secure messaging app. It offers server-client encryption for group and private chats, and you can also send messages with E2EE using Telegram’s Secret Chats feature. Not only does this prevent anyone from forwarding your messages, but it also allows you to send self-destructing messages that disappear after a certain amount of time. If you delete your message in a secret chat, Telegram will also delete it on your recipient’s device.
While Telegram recently introduced a paid tier that offers faster downloads and larger file uploads, the free version of the app still offers a ton of great features. (Oh, and Telegram has a ton of awesome stickers you can use to dress up your messages.)
Wickr Me is another app with a parent company that makes it seem daunting. Amazon Web Services bought Wickr Me last year, but the service is still a solid messaging app that should keep your conversations safe. While Wickr Me is geared more towards business professionals who use the app to communicate with their colleagues, that doesn’t mean a typical user can’t use it. The free version of the app allows for encrypted personal and group messaging, audio and video calls, and file sharing. Also, you can set timers for messages to disappear.
Wire is a stripped-down messaging app with a simple interface that does exactly what you need it to do: send E2EE messages and make E2EE voice and video calls. There are also some paid premium options, but these plans are best suited for businesses looking for a secure collaboration app.
With Viber, you can expect a full-featured messaging experience, complete with everything you would find in a modern messaging app, like stickers, GIFs, and message reactions. It also works a bit like Telegram in that you can explore and join different channels to stay up to date on the topics that interest you. While it supports E2EE for calls and messaging, it’s a bit more cluttered than some of the other apps here – you might see ads and channel recommendations while using it.
The interesting thing about Skred is that you don’t need a phone number or email address to sign up. Nor does Skred use your phone’s contacts to determine if any of your friends are using the app. You can only invite people to the app by having them personally scan a QR code from your app or by sending them the code through another messaging service. Skred supports E2EE messaging, voice and video calling.