WhatsApp is the most popular messaging application in South Africa, but it is also owned by Facebook, a fact that has prompted some users concerned about their privacy to turn to other messaging apps.
There have also been reports that WhatsApp will start showing advertising to users, making it less appealing.
The close relationship between the two platforms and analytical data collected from WhatsApp have alerted many users to potential privacy concerns, and with other apps offering truly private messaging, concerned users have turned to other options for their private conversations.
Like WhatsApp, many of these applications also offer end-to-end encryption in addition to a host of other privacy-focused features.
Some do not require the user to provide their number or email upon registration, while others reduce the number of device permissions required to start using the application.
We have briefly summarised five of the most popular and interesting security-focused alternatives to WhatsApp below.
Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows, macOS, Web, Linux
Telegram is one of the most well-known competitors to WhatsApp, offering a number of useful privacy features.
These include Secret Chats, which feature end-to-end encryption, screenshot prevention, and can include disappearing messages.
Telegram requires fewer device permissions than WhatsApp does, although only its Secret Chats are encrypted – while all WhatsApp chats are encrypted by default.
The company offers large Bitcoin bounties to anyone who can intercept encrypted messages on its platform, and it uses a proprietary encryption system which is not fully open to the public.
Telegram is free to download and use, and requires users to register with their mobile number.
Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux
Signal is a free messaging app available across multiple platforms that makes use of the open-source Signal protocol to provide end-to-end encryption for all messages.
The advantage of using an open-source encryption protocol is that experts have the opportunity to test the technology for flaws.
Signal also allows users to make voice and video calls, although it does not have the animated emojis featured of more mainstream applications.
The application’s interface is very similar to Telegram’s, and the app requires users to provide their mobile number upon registration.
Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Web
Threema is a privacy-focused messaging app that promises users their messages are deleted from servers as soon as they are delivered.
The app offers end-to-end encryption for all text messages, voice calls, file transfers, and group chats.
Threema also allows users to lock certain chats behind password protection, and all messages are encrypted individually with their own keys.
Users are not required to provide their mobile number when registering on the platform, with each user receiving a random eight-digit ID to identify them instead.
Threema is the only application on this list which is a paid product, and is available to purchase from various mobile app stores.
Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Web, Linux
Wire is a free messaging app that sports a unique, modern interface and offers end-to-end encryption.
The app was created by Skype co-founder Janus Friis, and requires either a user’s phone number or email to be provided at registration.
Wire includes features aimed at both personal and professional users, and all of its communication methods make use of its encryption.
The Pro account subscription allows for full administrative calls, encrypted video conferences, and secure guest rooms for external parties.
Personal accounts do not feature end-to-end encryption on bandwidth-heavy tasks, but are completely free and without any advertisements.
Platforms: Android, iOS
One of the most innovative new messaging apps on the market is Status, a smartphone-based messaging app that runs on the Ethereum blockchain.
The application allows users to run their own Ethereum node on their smartphone, and functions as both a cryptocurrency wallet as well as an uncensorable, decentralised messaging platform.
Status uses a multicast, peer-to-peer, end-to-end encrypted gossip protocol named Whisper to secure messages and send them without the need for any centralised servers.
This messaging platform is designed to be able to function outside standard regulation and censorship, using purely peer-to-peer and blockchain technologies.
Status’ Andy Tudhope previously told MyBroadband that the Whisper protocol could potentially provide the most secure and private messaging platform in the world.