Best WhatsApp Alternatives For 2024 | Time To Go Private!

There are lots of messaging apps similar to WhatsApp. Here's a review of the best secure alternatives: Signal, Threema, Telegram, Element, Wire, SimpleX, Session, and more.

2024-02-26
WhatsApp alternatives for Android and iPhone - which one is most similar, but more secure? Our top choice for maximum privacy and usability is Signal.
When it comes to popular chat apps WhatsApp reigns supreme. But if you want to quit it for good and leave its parent company Meta (formerly Facebook), there are many chat apps similar to WhatsApp and some make a great replacement not just in usability, but they are also more secure and more private. We've looked at nine best WhatsApp alternatives for iPhones and Android that focus on protecting your privacy and security, are easy to use and have a decent number of users. Check out these encrypted messaging platforms and free yourself from big tech tracking!

WhatsApp with its claim of being an 'iPhone and Android messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS' has become the leading instant messenger app worldwide with billions of users. While there are more than 100 alternatives to WhatsApp for a variety of platforms, including Android, iPhone, Mac, Windows and Linux apps, only a few can actually pose as a real rival to WhatsApp.

Today, WhatsApp is almost omnipresent in many regions of the world. People depend on this messaging app for business and personal communication; its brand recognition, its billions of users and its popularity together make it the go-to option for chat. Quitting WhatsApp is not as easy as quitting Gmail as you need to get others to jump ship as well. But thanks to similar apps to WhatsApp becoming more feature-rich and thus more popular, it has become much easier to replace WhatsApp today - compared to five years ago.

Some of your friends might already use WhatsApp alternatives - without your knowledge. So it's about time you check out all available options as well!

Is there a safer alternative to WhatsApp?

Before deciding on an alternative chat app to WhatsApp, it's most important to look at what the international competition does better than the Silicon Valley tech giant, namely their attention to privacy and security. Finding a new chat app that is similar to WhatApp but also more secure is everybody's goal.

WhatsApp alternatives: Which is best?

  1. Best WhatsApp for privacy and security: Signal
  2. Best WhatsApp without phone number: Threema
  3. Best Open Source WhatsApp alternative: Element
  4. Best Alternative to WhatsApp for business: Wire
  5. Best Group Chat Alternative: Telegram
  6. Best Decentralized Chat App: SimpleX
  7. Decentralized and Anonymous Chat: Session
  8. Best alternative for iPhone: iMessage
  9. Best alternative for Android: Google Messages

The table above lets you jump to ain in-depth review of your favorite messaging app. Check the comparison image here to decide which ones to look at in more detail!

A comparison of security and features from our list of secure messaging apps that can easily replace WhatsApp: Signal, Threema, Telegram, Element, Wire, SimpleX, Session, iMessage, Google Messages

1. Best WhatsApp for privacy: Signal

Best WhatsApp alternative for privacy: Signal.

Image credit: Signal Foundation

Signal is considered more secure than Whatsapp and more privacy-friendly. Thus, it has become the go-to app in the privacy community. The messaging service has endorsements from Elon Musk and even Edward Snowden; in fact Snowden has repeatedly underlined the high level of security you get with Signal on Twitter.

Thus, the WhatsApp rival Signal is the most obvious choice for better privacy and security: It is also the most popular privacy-friendly WhatsApp alternative with 40 million active monthly users. It is free, has strong quantum resistant encryption, it does not collect user data and works on all platforms, Android, iOS and desktops. Signal (formerly known as TextSecure) is the go-to app if people look for which Whatsapp alternative is best for privacy.

On top of the encryption, which renders the secure messages unreadable to eavesdropping, Signal ensures that very little meta data is generated while messaging and very little user data is collected. This is important in case the authorities issue a subpoena to the Signal Foundation. The fewer data a service provider collects, the fewer data it can turn over upon receiving a court order.

Like WhatsApp, the installation and operation of Signal are very simple, requiring only a few clicks or screen taps. Photos, videos and audios can be sent in individual as well as group chats. It also offers voice and video calling, so you won’t regret leaving WhatsApp. Their video calling functionality combines their strong encryption standards, which are now improved to better protect against quantum computers. Nearly identical features, but better security makes Signal the perfect alternative to WhatsApp video calls. Messages can be set to disappear after a given time interval for automatic deletion. This guarantees privacy, even if someone else gains physical access to your Android phone or your iPhone. You can even lock your app to prevent third-parties from accessing your account should you lose your device.

Signal's program code is open source, which means that anyone can review how the chat app works and check for vulnerabilities. Who exchanges messages with whom and when (=meta data) is not stored by Signal. Many security experts recommend Signal, such as Bruce Schneier and Edward Snowden.

Signal is also used by a large number of people so there will be less of a need to badger your friends and loved ones to make the switch to this WhatsApp alternative.

However, to use Signal one must provide a valid mobile phone number to the messaging service, which prevents anyone from using Signal with complete anonymity. There are possibilities to register an account with a VoIP number, but these services may be blocked from signing up. At least, Signal has recently enabled the creation of user names so that you do not have to share your mobile phone number if you want to communicate with someone else.

Due to its excellent privacy reputation, the better security than WhatsApp, and the large number of users, Signal is now considered as the biggest competitor to WhatsApp.

Pros

  • Free
  • Strong End-to-end Encryption
  • Open Source
  • Very Little Meta Data
  • Disappearing Messages
  • Available on all clients, both mobile and desktop
  • Intuitive Interface
  • Creation of user names possible

Cons

  • Requires Phone Number
  • Others can see that your are using Signal (if phone number is known)
  • Hosted on AWS

Our rating: Signal is the best choice as popular messaging app with a large user-base, and more secure than WhatsApp.

Download Signal: Android, iOS

2. Best WhatsApp without phone number: Threema

Threema is a chat app like WhatsApp that does not require a phone number.

Image credit: Threema GmbH

Another well-known private alternative to WhatsApp is Threema. You can register a Threema account anonymously without a phone number. Anonymous payment is also possible via Bitcoin or Cash. All communication via the secure messaging app is end-to-end encrypted and meta data is kept to a minimum. For example, the meta data about who and when you are messaging is not logged. You can send images, text messages, and GPS locations in the chat easily as the app has a similar intuitive functionality as WhatsApp, but is more secure overall. Threema also offers encrypted phone calls. Threema syncs your contact list so that you can easily find other users.

The client software is open source and can be viewed by anyone with an internet connection.

Convenience, data protection, and data security are right, but they come at a (low) price: The Threema app costs a one-time fee of 4.99 Euros. If you ask yourself which WhatsApp replacement is best for privacy, then Threema - along with Signal - is your best bet. Threema is also one of the few apps like WhatsApp without a phone number; not even Signal allows you to create a completely anonymous account. That's why this secure chat app is characterized by excellent privacy protection and anonymity.

Pros

  • End-to-end Encryption
  • Open Source
  • Almost No Meta Data
  • No phone number required
  • Available on all clients
  • Intuitive Interface
  • Hosted on own Threema-owned infrastructure

Cons

  • Low Fee
  • Small User Base

Our rating: Threema is the best WhatsApp replacement without a phone number.

Download Threema: Android, iOS

3. Best Open Source WhatsApp alternative: Element (formerly Riot)

Best replacement for open source: Element.

Image credit: The Matrix Foundation

Element is a universal secure chat application designed to enhance communication and collaboration, and it makes a great alternative to WhatsApp.

While the messenger app Element is quite unknown, it is used by tech-savvy government employees who highly value it for its security and privacy. Element has also found footing within the private sector with many businesses adopting it as a free and open source solution that lets them easily and securely communicate between Android devices and iPhones. The app is available for Android, iOS, Windows, Linux and macOS. Like Tuta Mail, the Android version does not require any Google services and can be downloaded via F-Droid. Element can be used directly with a web browser without installation as well. The user interface of Element might take some getting used to for WhatsApp users as it differs in some ways.

Element offers end-to-end encryption for voice-over-IP phone calls, video chats and the classic messaging services for sending texts and pictures. Group voice and video calls, however, are currently not encrypted end-to-end. If downloaded via Google's Play Store, the Element app features an application library that ensures the app is constantly connected to Google. Therefore, privacy-sensitive users are recommended to install the app from F-Droid, which does not include this library.

As an open-source application, built on the federated Matrix, you can also fully take control over your own data by hosting it on your own server. As all Matrix servers are interoperable, you can also send messages to users of other Matrix-based apps: Element is the most popular one among these. So called Matrix 'bridges' even enable you to send messages to other messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Signal and SMS.

Pros

  • Free
  • No Phone Number Required
  • End-to-end Encrypted (except group calls)
  • Available on all clients
  • Interoperable with other apps
  • Self-hosting Possible

Cons

  • Setup can be technical, especially if self-hosting

Our rating: Element is the best choice for open source enthusiasts as there is a fully de-googled Android version available.

Download Element: Android, iOS

4. Best Alternative to WhatsApp for business: Wire

Encrypted WhatsApp alternative for businesses: Wire.

Image credit: Wire Swiss GmbH

Wire, another encrypted chat app, is based in Switzerland and stands out as a more private and more secure option compared to WhatsApp. Wire lets you communicate via voice, text and video chat. Similar to WhatsApp it supports GIFs, file sharing, emojis and other options.

Wire can be synced across devices - unlike WhatsApp - and you can connect multiple accounts to the app. Wire is fully open source and has published its code on GitHub for community security review. It relies on the Signal protocol that is also being used by Signal and Whatsapp to encrypt chat messages end to end.

The messaging app Wire is free of charge for mobile and desktop users. It is run as a freemium model as there are also paid options for business customers.

Pros

  • Free
  • End-to-end Encrypted
  • Available on all clients
  • Open source
  • Self-destructing messages

Cons

  • Phone number or email address required
  • Does not support 2FA
  • Small number of users (around half a million)
  • Can be a bit buggy at times

Download Wire: Android, iOS

5. Telegram

Telegram - another alternative to WhatsApp.

Image credit: Telegram FZ-LLC

The chat app Telegram has gained a lot of respect and popularity for fighting for anti-censorship in autocratic countries, namely in the founder's home country Russia. With 500 million active users, it is one of the most popular WhatsApp alternatives. Similar to WhatsApp, it makes use of a double-tick system to display when someone received and read a message. Like Signal, Telegram offers the ability to automatically delete a message after a certain time.

However, Telegram is a cloud-based service without end-to-end encryption; only client-to-client 'secret' chats are stored encrypted on user devices locally. With the cloud-based service, chats are re-encrypted on the server. During this process, however, operators do have access to the user data.

Additionally Telegram is not as sparse with meta data collection as Threema or Signal as it may collect the following meta data from users: “We may collect metadata such as your IP address, devices and Telegram apps you’ve used, history of username changes, etc.” Depending on your threat model and privacy concerns this could be a deal breaker.

Telegram is as easy to use as other messaging apps such as WhatsApp. Additionally, you can send text and media messages in a chat with up to 200,000 users, or create 'channels' to which an unlimited number of users can subscribe to. WhatsApp has recently copied this channel features and now offers this as well.

Telegram's apps (client software) are free, available on all clients and open source, so anyone can view them, while the central server software is proprietary. Former WhatsApp users have also often opted for Telegram because they can quickly import their WhatsApp chats into Telegram.

Pros

  • Free
  • Channel Feature
  • Available on all clients
  • Intuitive Interface

Cons

  • Not End-to-End Encrypted (except secret chat)
  • Requires Phone Number
  • Collects lots of meta data
  • No option to encrypt group chats

Download Telegram: Android, iOS

6. Best Decentralized Chat App: SimpleX

Up-and-coming Decentralized WhatsApp Alternative: SimpleX.

Image Credit: SimpleX

SimpleX is the most recent addition to the world of end-to-end encrypted messaging applications. This gave them an advantage by allowing them to learn from the mistakes of older encrypted messaging apps. For starters, SimpleX does not require a phone number or even a randomized ID key for sharing with conversation partners. By simply scanning a QR code, you can add friends and family to shared groups or individual chat sessions for more secure chats.

Following the lead of services like Mastodon, Session, or Matrix, SimpleX also leaves behind the centralized server model, opting instead for a decentralized network. This approach allows for greater stability and network resilience. There's no need to worry that a networking error brings down the entire platform!

With its true incognito mode the chat app creates individual fingerprints for each unique chat so that creating larger connection maps between your conversation partners is impossible. You might be asking, how can these messages be delivered without unique identifiers? The team claims to avoid this potential pitfall because "instead of user IDs used by all other platforms, SimpleX uses temporary anonymous pairwise identifiers of message queues, separate for each of your connections — there are no long term identifiers."

With SimpleX you can truly own your data. Your chat information is stored on your device and you also have the option to host your own servers which can communicate with any other SimpleX users.

As with Element and other decentralized platforms, this service is less popular than some of the giants like Signal, but the additional features make it a must try for those whose personal well-being and safety demand a greater amount of privacy.

Pros

  • No Phone Number Required
  • End-to-End Encrypted by Default
  • Decentralized Network
  • No Reliance on DNS
  • Self-hosting Possible

Cons

  • Relatively small user base
  • Setup can be technical, especially if self-hosting

Download SimpleX: Desktop, Android, iOS

7. Decentralized and Anonymous Chat: Session

Session is a decentralized messaging app which allows for chats, voice messaging, and file sharing with no metadata.

Session was one of the first apps which took the encrypted messaging model and pushed it beyond the centralized server structure. Session is based in Australia, which is one of the Five Eyes. Probably due to this threat to user data, the messaging app focuses on end-to-end encryption and decentralization: to reduce the risk of user data requests by the authorities. Their goal is to use a Tor-like network known as the Session Network in order to distribute and relay messages.

This distributed structure makes Session resistant against attacks on single servers. Session offers many features you have come to love in WhatsApp like group chats, calling and voice messaging, and even the option to send files securely. Session also offers an alternative to the WhatsApp desktop environment. This means that you can use Session both on your mobile devices as well as your primary workstation which will save you from needing to bounce between devices to communicate securely. Like with Threema and SimpleX, you can register your Session account without a phone number, which lets you use this chat app like WhatsApp, but anonymously.

Pros

  • Decentralized server structure
  • Group Chats
  • Encrypted Phone and Video calls
  • No phone number required

Cons

  • Relationship to cryptocurrency may be off-putting for some
  • Australian location raises some security concerns, but these are not deal breaking

Download Session: Desktop and Mobile

8. Best alternative for iPhone: iMessage

iMessage vs WhatsApp - which is best?

When on iPhone or Mac and you're looking for apps similar to Whatsapp for iPhone, the simplest choice is sometimes the best: iMessage is like Signal another more secure alternative to WhatsApp because it uses quantum-safe encryption. This new encryption protocol is so strong it even protects your messages from attacks by quantum computers. The only limitation: iMessage only works within the Apple system, so with others who also use iPhones, iPads or Macs.

iMessage works like SMS messages when sending to Android devices, only internally - among iOS users - all messages travel securely via iMessage and are end-to-end encrypted. The security benefits of iMessage are thus limited to iPhone-to-iPhone texts.

In short: Your Apple-based messages are secure, but everything else is not. You should also consider that Apple monitors all you push notifications, which limits its security.

In terms of features, iMessage is as comprehensively featured and very similar to WhatsApp and other chat apps. The Apple chat service supports sending images GIFs, and videos. You can do group calls and in some countries you can even send each other money via Apple Pay. However for cross-platform communication, iMessage doesn't add up to WhatsApp due to its limitation to iOS devices.

For video and voice calling you can not use iMessage, but need to switch to FaceTime - another Apple-only communication platform. It's not clear why FaceTime and iMessage are two separate apps, but at least it's already installed on most iPhones and Macs.

Pros

  • Quantum-safe encryption
  • Easy to use
  • Fully featured

Cons

  • Only works among iPhone and Mac users
  • Doesn't support video or voice calls

Download iMessage: Chat app for iPhone

Download FaceTime

9. Best alternative for Android: Google Messages

Google Messages: good replacement on Android, but not for everyone

Google's answer to Apple's iMessage is Google Messages. This chat app is pre-installed on most Android phones, but you can also download Google Messages from Google Play. The aim of this chat app is to replace existing SMS apps; internally (between Android phones) chat messages are end-to-end encrypted, and it's integrated with all Google services. In its essence Google Messages is iMessage for Android.

If you want to use Google Messages on Windows or Apple computers, you can not install a stand-alone app, but must link an Android device to a browser tab - which is similar to WhatsApp's Linked Devices feature. Google's chat app supports all common features like sending images and files as you are used to from WhatsApp.

An obvious negative is that the encryption only works among Android devices, all messages to iPhones will be traditional, insecure SMS texts. Thus, for cross-platform communication, Google Messages can't really compete with WhatsApp due to its limitation to Android.

Like with Apple's iMessage and FaceTime (for voice and video call), you also need a separate app for voice and video calls on Android: Meet (formerly Duo). It's likely that Google Meet is already installed on your Android device or you can get it from Google Play for free. Even iPhone users can get Google Meet from the Apple App Store.

Download Google Messages for Android

Download Google Meet: Android, iOS

Other options

Now that we've discussed the best alternatives to WhatsApp, there are still more options on the market. Important to us in this collection was to include only encrypted messaging apps which can compare to WhatsApp in regards to usability and features.

Whether you decide to go with something like Signal and it's top notch reputation or something like Session as a new decentralized chat app, you'll notice that chatting on your phone will feel much better once you know that your privacy is protected. You can even ditch WhatsApp, but still use Facebook Messenger with your friends who are not ready to quite Facebook and the Meta ecosystem. Though we would highly advise you not to as you can increase you privacy on Facebook, but you'll never stop them from tracking you. The possibilities for communication are endless, you only need to find the prefect option for you.

Why would want to leave WhatsApp?

Ever since WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014, its reputation has gone down, and with every new Facebook-related scandal - and of these there are many - WhatsApp suffers. This is made worse by the fact that in America and Europe, Facebook Messenger is the number 2 most popular chat app. And while WhatsApp is still the most used chat app with more than 2 billion monthly active users worldwide, more and more people are asking themselves what is the best alternative to WhatsApp?

The reason for people looking for WhatsApp similar apps is simply that the messaging app does not have a great privacy reputation. The most prominent scandal about WhatsApp has made it to the collective memory: In 2021 WhatsApp changed its privacy policy, ultimately privacy-first alternatives like Signal boomed.

The update of the WhatsApp privacy policy was understood by many that Facebook would now get their hands on your private WhatsApp data, potentially even contents of messages. While WhatsApp denied these claims, stating that all messages are end-to-end encrypted and inaccessible to them, these news still brought to light how closely interlinked the two companies now are - which was a wake-up call to many.

So why should you drop Meta's chat ecosystem of WhatsApp, FaceBook Messenger, and the recent arrival Threads? The answer is simple, Meta's business model operates by providing you with a 'free' service, thereby turning your behavior and data into a marketable product which they can in turn sell to advertisers and build their own ad service. This is made worse by the fact that WhatsApp biggest competitor is Meta's own Facebook Messenger. If this isn't leaning towards the creation of a chat monopoly like Google's search monopoly, I'm not sure what is.

The ability to communicate with secure end-to-end encryption shouldn't be dependent upon selling our digital souls and there are many great WhatsApp alternatives. The data mined by Big Tech platforms can create a detailed picture of nearly every intimate detail of your life. Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, summed it up well when he stated "We Know Where You Are. We Know Where You've Been. We Can More Or Less Know What You're Thinking About."

This should not be the status quo for our digital existence. And it doesn't have to be! Thankfully, there are a number of apps similar to WhatsApp for iPhone, Android, or desktop computers which offer the same ease of use and features, without Meta's painful price tag and abuse of privacy. Not only are they more private: the best WhatsApp alternative offers end-to-end encryption, making it a safer app than WhatsApp and a lot more secure than SMS texting.

We're happy that more and more people are ready to leave WhatsApp - ot at the very least download an alternative to slowly migrate to a better way of texting.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, we can say that there are lots of great messaging apps that easily exceed WhatsApp,a re more secure, more private, and noentheless offer a great set of features. As a fighter for privacy rights, I can say that Signal, Threema and Element are my personal favorites among the ones presented here, I'm eagerly watching the development of SimpleX and am optimistic about what they have to offer.

In addition, it is of course recommendable to also get a secure email account due to the interoperability of email providers. With Tuta Mail you can email anyone anywhere in the world - also encrypted.

After all, the more data you encrypt, the more secure you are on the web!

Sign up for your free secure email address now.

Happy encrypting!