The Most Popular Messenger: Four is better than WhatsApp

WhatsApp is the most popular messenger, but there are generally better services. Tehnologijaviews examined 16 of them – and found a favourite.

If you communicate with friends, partners, family members and, increasingly, even with colleagues or craftsmen and restaurants, then you most likely do so via WhatsApp. 

WhatsApp has received a lot of criticism, especially in the past year. Announced (and now delayed) changes to privacy and terms of use have led some people to look for an alternative. Finally, there is no shortage of other messenger services and tehnologija has already presented some alternatives. But whether the change is worth it not only depends on how many of your friends you can convince to change (which is often difficult), but also on the functions. A good chat app is not only characterized by the fact that it can send messages and pictures.

Tehnologijaviews has now examined which messengers are worthwhile and how WhatsApp performs in comparison. The testers tackled a total of 16 apps. These included classic messengers such as WhatsApp, Kik and Telegram, but also services that are popular with younger people in particular, such as Discord and Snapchat, as well as the video telephony services Skype and Google Hangouts.

Not all chat apps support encryption

Tests were carried out in three categories, each of which accounted for almost a third of the overall grade. First, it was about the functions, such as whether messages can be undone or edited later, whether voice and video telephony is supported and whether there are additional functions such as sharing the location. Secondly, it was about setting up and using it: How easy is the app to use, how can you personalize the chat window, how easy is it to transfer existing chats to a new cell phone? And thirdly, there was the important issue of privacy. A good messenger should encrypt the messages, offer password protection and also have an understandable data protection declaration.

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When it came to privacy, only a few messengers were completely convincing. Above all, the testers criticized the data protection declaration for all services. Not only in the case of the apps of large tech companies such as WhatsApp, Skype, Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger, the lawyers criticized the sometimes unclear information on how and for what purposes data is processed and how long it is stored, for example, who wrote with whom and when (so-called metadata). Even with Signal and Threema, which are generally considered more data protection-friendly alternatives, the information is sometimes vague. Only the Swiss Messenger Wire contained "no significant deficits".

Only eight of the 16 apps examined also support standard end-to-end encryption, with the help of which messages cannot be viewed by third parties in transit: WhatsApp, Signal, Wire, Line, Viber, Threema, Android Conversations and iMessage. With some services, such as Telegram, however, encryption must be activated for each chat. And still others do not allow end-to-end encryption at all. Here all conversations end up in plain text on the servers of the providers and could in principle be read there. This gave the testers a clear point deduction.

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The Swiss service Threema, which is the only messenger that requires neither an e-mail address nor a telephone number when registering, receives bonus points in this category. Signal, Telegram, Viber and Conversations also make it possible to disguise your own IP address using a so-called proxy server. This means that third parties cannot see from which Internet connection you are using the service.

The product testers had less to complain about when it came to functions and use. In terms of functions, most messengers received the rating "good", especially since most also offer a similar range of functions: sending text, voice and video messages, as well as (video) telephony and a group function. With some apps, the complicated switch from one smartphone to another was criticized, with others the occasional advertisements.

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Snapchat and iMessage in particular lacked technical versatility and setting options. The Apple service, on the other hand, was able to score again with the setup, which is particularly easy since the messenger is already preinstalled on iPhones. Only Signal scored "very good" on both points; the testers praised the versatile settings, such as notifications and visual adjustments.

Signal is the best messenger

This also ultimately led to the recommendation from tehnologijaviews: Signal achieved an overall rating of 2.3 and thus offers the best overall package. Viber and Wire also received the rating "good" with a grade of 2.5 each, as did, which is somewhat surprising, Microsoft's outdated Skype, despite weaknesses in encryption (encrypted chats must also be selected separately here). However, it was able to score with telephony and the fact that it is available on many different devices.

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Telegram is a special case: Although the service was convincing in terms of function and use, it did not receive any rating. The reason: Since Telegram is considered a haven for right-wing extremists, corona deniers and conspirators and is therefore currently being criticized politically, tehnologijaviews refrains from recommending the service.

Overall, the result is not entirely surprising. Signal is also named as the currently best alternative in other current tests, such as the technology portals TechRadar and Tom's Guide. And the civil rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has repeatedly recommended Signal as one of the best services in the past when it comes to communicating securely on the Internet.

Speaking of security: With a grade of 2.6 in the tehnologijaviews test, the industry leader WhatsApp only got a "satisfactory" rating and is therefore behind the four services mentioned above in the ranking. This is mainly due to the inadequate data protection declaration - and the fact that the messenger belongs to the Facebook group Meta. As far as communication security is concerned, WhatsApp can't be faulted, especially since it uses the same encryption protocol as Signal.

A conclusion would be: Yes, there are better chat apps than WhatsApp. But if you absolutely can't convince your friends (and the craftsman) to switch to Signal, Threema, Viper or Wire, and if you also use Facebook and Instagram (and thus already provide the meta group with masses of data), that's actually it quite well served.

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