Best Encrypted Message Apps For iPhone And Android

By Tegan Jones on at

If you’re looking for a little extra privacy when it comes to messages, you might want to consider an encrypted messaging app. There can be a lot of reasons to do this, none of which are criminal. Maybe you don’t want your messages used for marketing purposes or perhaps you want to minimise the risk of your messages being hacked. Maybe you believe your texts aren’t the business of an ISP or government agency.

If you’re interested in an encrypted messaging app, here are a few places to start.

What is end-to-end encryption?

The most secure messaging services will offer end-to-end encryption. This essentially means that only yourself and the person you’re messaging can read what is being sent. Third parties and the app develop itself will not be able to read these messages.

This works with the use of unique private and public keys. A private key stays on-device while a public key aids in sending the encrypted message to another person, who can unlock it using their private key. All of this should happen automatically.


Some of the best encrypted message apps

With the above in mind, here are some of the best encrypted message apps you might want to consider.

WhatsApp

Pros

  • It’s already popular so people you know may already have it
  • Phone calls also encrypted
  • Free (including local and international calls over data)
  • Group chats
  • Web functionality
  • Location sharing

Cons

  • It’s owned by Facebook

WhatsApp is the most well-known encrypted messaging app on the market, so it’s a good choice for anyone who already has a bunch of contacts using the service already.

It has a tonne of features that are all end-to-en encrypted and is generally a great all-rounder. The only downside is that it’s owned by Facebook and can collect data, such as your phone’s location, for marketing purposes. However, Facebook cannot read your messages.

Cost: Free

Availability: iOS and Android


Telegram

Pros

  • Disappearing messages
  • Free
  • Group chats
  • File sending

Cons

  • End-to-end encryption not default
 Telegram is another well known app, though not as mainstream as WhatsApp. It has the same bells and whistles but with the added benefit of disappearing messages if you have some sensitive information you don’t want saved. It will also alert you if someone takes a screenshot.

The biggest downside to Telegram is that it is not end-to-end encrypted by default. While regular threads will be encrypted, it won’t be as secure as possible. If you start a new conversation you need to select ‘secret chat’ to make sure it’s end-to-end.

Cost: Free

Available: iOS and Android


Signal

Pros

  • Phone calls are also encrypted
  • Free but also has no ads (you can also donate)
  • Group chats
  • Open source
  • Free

Cons

  • File size limit small compared to other apps
  • No group audio or video calls
  • Can’t change phone number attached to account

Signal is an incredibly reputable end-to-end encryption option that won’t serve you ads or charge you for use. There are a few bug bears such as the small file size limit and inability to swap numbers on an account, but in general it’s great.

Price: Free

Availability: iOS and Android


Threema

Pros

  • No phone number or email address needed
  • Send any file type
  • Group chats
  • Phone calls also encrypted

Cons

  • Not free
  • Phone calls only available for iPhone iOS 9 and above
  • No video calls yet (but they’re in beta)
  • Not open source

Threema is excellent if you want complete anonymity. When you sign up you receive a unique Threema ID rather than providing a phone number or email address.

Unlike the other apps on this list there is a one-time cost of $4.99, but that’s not a bad deal considering the level of anonymity offered.

Cost: £2.99

Available: iOS and Android.


Dust

Pros

  • Unsend messages at any time
  • History is erased after 24 hours
  • Free

Cons

  • Less features than other apps due to how niche it is
  • Not a good option if you want to keep messages

The main point of difference of ‘Dust’ is hinted at in the name. The app revolves around disappearing messages. Users have the ability to delete their messages on both their and the recipients device and message history automatically deletes after 24 hours.

Price: Free

Available: iOS and Android


What about iMessage?

If you’re an iPhone user you might be aware that iMessage and FaceTime have end-to-end encryption. However this is only available between Apple devices so the functionality is limited in that respect


What about Facebook Messenger?

Facebook Messenger does have end-to-end encryption functionality but it’s limited to it’s ‘secret conversations’. We would not recommend using Messenger if you’re serious about privacy.