Zoom just got a surprise new rival — what you need to know

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Telegram, the secure messaging app, is launching an alpha version of encrypted one-on-one video calls on both its Android and iOS apps — positioning it as a competitor to the likes of FaceTime and WhatsApp. And with group video calls rolling out later this year, Telegram could become one of the best Zoom alternatives. 

In a blog post, Telegram acknowledged the huge surge in video calling as the coronavirus pandemic has transformed both the work and social lives of millions of people. "2020 highlighted the need for face-to-face communication," the company said.

The video calling function is still an alpha version, so Telegram will continue to work on improving it until it is fully ready. For now, users can select a contact's profile page and start a video call from there. Video can be switched on and off at any time during the call. The picture-in-picture feature allows users to multitask while on the call.

And true to its reputation for secure messaging, Telegram says the video calls will have the end-to-end encryption as its Secret Chats. Video callers can compare the four emoji shown on-screen with their chat partner to ensure that the call is 100% secure.

"Our apps for Android and iOS have reproducible builds, so anyone can verify encryption and confirm that their app uses the exact same open source code that we publish with each update," Telegram explained.

Telegram also noted that it plans to roll out group video calls some point later this year, which would put it in a very competitive space with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype and others. The demand for secure group video calls is likely to remain extremely high for the rest of the year and into 2021.

Telegram has been growing in popularity since it debuted seven years ago. The company says it now reaches over 400 million users.

Kelly Woo
Streaming Editor

Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.