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The best WhatsApp alternatives for 2021

best whatsapp alternatives
(Image credit: Allie Zru)

The best WhatsApp alternatives are the perfect way to finally give Facebook's messaging service the boot for good. They're especially important if you're one of the people that got angry about the prospect of WhatsApp handing over more of your data to its parent company.

WhatsApp's controversial privacy policy has been in force since May, making that the best time to leave WhatsApp behind. The second best time is now. But where do you go if you've been on WhatsApp for so long? That's where the best WhatsApp alternatives come in.

Granted, WhatsApp's new privacy policy may be controversial, but that doesn't mean you should jump back to plain old SMS. The old-school text messaging system is hilariously insecure, whereas even WhatsApp has end to end encryption and some robust security measures in place.

But there are plenty of other options out there. Options that don't involve putting you or your contacts at risk, and ones that would offer you something WhatsApp can not.

Signal

best whatsapp alternatives: signal

(Image credit: Signal Foundation)

Signal is one of the most obvious choices for the more privacy and security conscious. The messaging service has endorsements from the likes of Elon Musk and Edward Snowden — with the latter crediting its security conscious approach for him still being alive.

Not only is Signal completely free, it also supports text messaging and voice, video and group calling. Messages can be set to self-destruct, and you can use a Chrome browser plugin if you’d rather send your messages from a desktop machine instead. Here's our tutorial on how to use Signal.

Signal's open-source end-to-end encryption protocol is also used by WhatsApp, so you'll be getting WhatsApp's security without Facebook's involvement.

The Signal app regularly conducts security audits on its software and manages to combine that security with a user-friendly interface that even your technophobic uncle could manage. 

Signal is owned and operated by a non-profit foundation headed by cryptography expert and self-described anarchist Moxie Marlinspike and WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, who famously left Facebook in 2017 after a public dispute over the future of WhatsApp.

Download Signal: Android, iOS

Telegram

best whatsapp alternatives: telegram

(Image credit: Telegram FZ-LLC)

If you’d rather have something similar to WhatsApp and linked to your phone number, Telegram is one option for you. That said, experts have pointed out that Telegram's services aren’t that secure, and its end-to-end encryption is not set up by default. So that’s worth bearing in mind.

That said, Telegram still offers the option to share files, set messages to self-destruct, and chat in groups of up to 200,000 users. It can also sync messages across all your devices, and costs absolutely nothing to use.

Download Telegram: Android, iOS

iMessage

best whatsapp alternatives: imessage

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re an iPhone or Mac user, then the simplest option is sometimes the best, and iMessage is the ideal alternative to WhatsApp. 

Not only can you send messaging to all phone numbers, whether they use iMessage or not, but Apple has a proven track record of not bending to demands by governments that it add backdoors to its encryption. So your messages stay safe (unless someone can read your iCloud backups).

iMessage is just as fully-featured as other popular messaging apps, with support for images, GIFs, video and group calls. In some countries iMessage users can even send each other money using Apple Pay.

Video and voice calling is not included in iMessage, and you’ll have to do that in the FaceTime app instead -- and FaceTime works only with Apple devices. Why iMessage and FaceTime haven’t been blended into one single communications app isn’t clear, but that’s the way it is. At least it’s already installed on all iPhones and most Macs.

Google Messages

best whatsapp alternatives: google messages

(Image credit: Google)

Google Messages is Google’s answer to iMessage, and it's usually available on modern Android phones right out of the box. If you can't find it, you can download Google Messages from Google Play.

Designed to replace your existing SMS app and integrated with all Google’s services, Google Messages is essentially iMessage, but for Android (and Windows, but not Macs or iOS). 

End-to-end encryption is automatic when you’re messaging anyone else with Google Messages and you can send all your usual images and files as you would with something like WhatsApp.

What Messages doesn’t have is video and voice calling, since that’s all handled by Google Duo. That’s right: Just as iMessage and FaceTime are still separate for some reason, so are Messages and Duo, although the latter isn't restricted to Android devices. 

The good news is that Duo is likely already installed on your Android phone, and if it’s not it’s free to download from Google Play. iPhone users can get Duo from the Apple App Store.

Download Google Messages: Android

Download Google Duo: Android, iOS

Threema

best whatsapp alternatives: threema

(Image credit: Threema)

Threema is an app dedicated to complete privacy, with the option to use the app with total anonymity. You can connect it to your email or phone number, in case you want people to be able to find you, but unlike a lot of apps that's not mandatory.

Naturally it also lets you send text, voice, picture, and video messages, which are all encrypted. Likewise you can create group chats, send files, and even set up polls to more easily collect feedback from all your contacts. What's more it has a built-in secure browser, and like WhatsApp everything is stored on your phone rather than some random server anyone can access.

Threema itself is based in Switzerland, which is known for its strong privacy laws, but it hasn't really caught on in other countries. The lack of name recognition and the $3 pricetag might make it hard to convince other people to migrate with you.

Download Threema: AndroidiOS

Wire

best whatsapp alternatives: Wire app screenshot

(Image credit: Wire Swiss GmbH)

Another option hailing from Switzerland and it's strong privacy laws, Wire is another encrypted messenger with the usual array of messaging options. It lets you chat via voice, text, and video, while also supporting things like GIFS, file sharing, and all the other stuff you like from WhatsApp.

Unlike WhatsApp it's able to sync across devices, and supports multiple accounts for those times you need to keep your communications separate.

Wire uses its own open-source encryption protocol called Proteous, but it's based on the Signal protocol used by both Signal and WhatsApp and undergoes regular security audits to keep it secure.

Wire is free for mobile and desktop users, though there is a paid tier designed for businesses.

Download Wire: AndroidiOS

Viber

(Image credit: Viber Media)

Owned by Japanese e-retailer Rakuten, Viber is a service that started life as a VoIP app and gradually grew to include things like text messaging, voice calls, group messaging, fully synced desktop and mobile apps, and more. All tied to your phone number

Like other services on this list it's also end-to-end encrypted, but features unique features including AR-powered selfie lenses (in partnership with Snapchat), group video calls, and a 'Communities' features that is basically a social network that lets people across the world discuss specific topics of interest.

Viber is free to use, though you can subscribe to 'Viber Out', a service that lets you make unlimited international calls to phones that don't have Viber installed. It's $6 a month.

Download Viber: Android | iOS

Other options

Those are your simplest options right now, although you can always opt for one of the other best encrypted messaging apps that are currently available, Whether it’s Wickr Me, the $10 a month Silent Phone, or something else entirely, you’re sure to find something that works for you — and everyone else you’re messaging. 

Tom Pritchard

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online. 

  • schultzter
    Interesting article.

    However
    Signal does NOT have a browser extension any more - they do have a desktop app but it's difficult to run on Chrome OS; and
    Google Messages DOES WORK on iOS and MacOS since it has a web-based desktop that runs anywhere you have a browser!Thanks
    Reply
  • JT'sGB
    None of these 'Reviews" mention the potentially overwhelming requirement for mutuality. I suspect most do. Who can you message if they don't have your message app, already installed, or have to install yet another web app or plug-in (initially, just for you only)?
    The text of the reviews is useful for some ambiguities, but actual comparison requires a comparison table, without the vague "all of the usual features".
    Reply