Recent WhatsApp news has left many people looking for a secure and private alternative. Enter Signal. Here’s how to use it.
I’ve been using secure messaging app Signal for years, but I’ve had to keep WhatsApp because many of my friends and family use it to communicate. Now that could be about to change—following the news that WhatsApp shares data with Facebook, people are moving to Signal in droves.
In fact, Signal is the number one most popular app in my version of the Apple App Store right now, compared to WhatsApp at number five and Telegram at number three.
If you are thinking about moving to Signal, the good news is, the app is just as easy to use, and it has a desktop version too. Better still, you can voice and video chat on Signal, and calls are all end-to-end encrypted, which means no one can access them—even Signal itself. Group calls are limited to five, so Signal can’t replace Zoom yet for large video conferences, but it’s fine to speak to friends and family.
Downloading and setting up Signal
The first step, of course, is to download the Signal app on your iPhone or Android device via the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Once you have done that, you can create an account. Simply open the app on your smartphone, select Continue and allow permissions. You then need to enter your phone number, after which point you’ll receive a verification code, which you need to enter into Signal. You can then set up a profile picture and name, as well as a PIN (more on this later).
If you want to use Signal on your desktop, you’ll need to link the device via your phone app. It’s really easy to do. Go to your smartphone app’s Signal Settings > Linked devices > Link New device and use your camera to scan the QR code on your desktop. This will set Signal up on the desktop too.
Sending a message is as simple as it is on WhatsApp. Just tap the pen icon in the top right-hand corner and you are ready to go. You can search through your contacts using the search bar at the top.
Extra Signal settings
For extra security and privacy, go to your Signal Privacy settings. There you can set up or change a PIN—Signal’s future means of IDing you instead of a phone number—as well as enabling a screen lock to use biometrics such as Touch ID or Face ID to open Signal. Like WhatsApp you can allow or disallow Read Receipts too.
It’s also easy to move your group chats from other apps to Signal.
Getting the hang of using Signal
When you’ve been using a messaging service such as WhatsApp for years, downloading a new one can be daunting. But don’t be afraid—a few years ago you moved from text (SMS) messages to WhatsApp. My mom even uses WhatsApp, and the same will soon apply to Signal.
A new app always takes a bit of getting used to, and Signal is certainly worth it. I’m excited about the prospect of more of my friends and family switching over to Signal, allowing me to finally get rid of WhatsApp altogether.