In this guide, we share three apps that allow you to communicate using end-to-end encryption. If you missed it, check out our guide on encryption basics and techniques to protect your information.
Each app is available for use on an Android or iPhone, as well as desktop. The desktop version of each is synched with the phone app, so messages sent from one will appear on both devices. In order to use the desktop app, you must first install the app on your phone, as your phone number is what it uses to identify you.
These apps use your WiFi or data connection to allow you to make voice calls and send messages. All three allow you to send photos, videos, voice messages, and documents, and to have group chats. These apps are similar in look and feel to other messaging apps: you can only communicate with someone through the app if they also have it installed, and the app will show you if any of your phone’s contacts are already using it.
Signal is free to download and use. You can also choose to have your messages disappear from your device and the inbox of the recipient after a set amount of time, something that can be useful if you want to set or comply with retention policies. The Disappearing Messages feature must be applied to each conversation you want to use it for — it can’t be set for all your Signal conversations at once, and it’s not a default setting in the app.
Wickr is an encrypted app that has a free option for personal users, and a fee-based option for teams. The option for personal users is called Wickr Me and is very similar to Signal and WhatsApp. The Expiration setting allows you to configure messages to disappear from your app and the recipient’s app a specified time after you send them. With the Burn on Read setting, you can set them to disappear a chosen amount of time after they are read by the recipient. In Wicker Me, these times have to be set for each conversation, if you want to use this feature.
Wickr Pro is designed for teams of up to 50 users and allows set up of an account with administrative privileges. The administrator can onboard and offboard team members and set Expiration and Burn on Read settings to messages sent by all or selected team members.
WhatsApp, a messaging app owned by Facebook, is also free to download. WhatsApp doesn’t have an option to automatically delete messages, but you can delete specific messages from both your device and the recipients. WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted, but the app offers the option to back up your messages, to Google Drive on Androids or iCloud on iPhones. It’s important to note that these backups will not be encrypted, either when they are stored or in transit. So, if you are choosing to use WhatsApp so that your communications will be encrypted, you should ensure that you are not backing up the messages.