The best WhatsApp alternatives of 2021

The best WhatsApp alternatives of 2021

WhatsApp is arguably the world’s most popular messaging app with over 2 billion monthly active users. However, I am sure there quite a few of you who aren’t too enamored by WhatsApp, its connection with Facebook, and its recent decision to tweak its privacy policy. Many of you, in fact, are actively looking for the best WhatsApp alternatives out there!

Well, let us NextPit help you out. In this article, we list five of the best alternatives to WhatsApp that you should definitely consider downloading (and using) in 2021.

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But first, let’s address the elephant in the room and talk about the need for these alternatives in the first place.

The need for WhatsApp alternatives

While there was a strong undercurrent of anti-WhatsApp sentiment ever since the messaging client was bought by Facebook in 2014, it never really did translate into a mass exodus. 

That changed in January 2021, soon after WhatsApp sent out notifications to most of its 2 billion users about impending changes to its privacy policy. In the notification, WhatsApp seemed to indicate that accepting the new policies would be construed as users agreeing to share their private information being shared with Facebook.

Hours after users were intimated about the new changes, there was a massive uproar on social media, and people started looking for viable alternatives to WhatsApp, resulting in somewhat of a mass exodus. The media storm and the general negative publicity over the issue eventually forced WhatsApp to delay the implementation of the revised privacy policy.

Following a worldwide campaign trying to explain to users how the new changes won’t affect users’ privacy, WhatsApp announced that it would defer the implementation until May 15, 2021, giving them and the users both enough time to review the changes.

whatsapp privacy policy faq
WhatsApp had to come up with a PR campaign to stem the mass exodus following its disastrous privacy announcement in January 2021/ © WhatsApp

With Facebook likely to go ahead with the new privacy policy soon, you might be wondering if there are some excellent WhatsApp alternatives put there that can function as an effective messaging platform while also ensuring your security and privacy.

Listed below are what we think are five of the best secure alternatives to WhatsApp in 2021.

Telegram: The best, complete WhatsApp alternative?

shutterstock 1310087068
Telegram. Is this the best WhatsApp alternative out there? / © Sergey Khaustov / Shutterstock.com

Telegram routinely finds itself topping the list on any article about WhatsApp alternatives – and for good reason. Apart from being loaded with features, Telegram is also visually similar to WhatsApp, giving users a sense of familiarity once they eventually make the switch.

But why is Telegram better than WhatsApp? The UI familiarity thing aside, what makes most people stick with Telegram are some of the core messaging features that are implemented in a better way compared to WhatsApp.

Telegram is a full-fledged messaging app that can almost do everything you would ever want from such an app. It supports one on one chats/ video calls, group chats, channels, audio calls, setting up bots, and can even do polls. As you might have noticed, some of these features are not even present on WhatsApp.

Another thing that Telegram users love about the app is the seamless multi-device support. Unlike WhatsApp, Telegram’s web app doesn’t need to be connected to your phone for seamless exchange of messages. What’s more? Everything thing is synchronized on Telegram - including unsent message drafts!

If all these features weren’t enough, Telegram also supports sharing large fie sizes up to 1.5GB. In fact, you can think of this as a cloud storage service, and some of my friends even use Telegram as one. To ensure these files aren’t deleted, you are required to log in at least once every six months.

Other notable Telegram features:

  1. Video and image compression factor can be controlled.
  2. Support for short video messages.
  3. The ability to edit messages after sending.
  4. Seamless movement of chat data from Android to iOS and vice-versa.
  5. People who do not know you cannot see your number in large groups.
  6. Oh, and yes, no restrictions on group sizes. You can add up to 200,000 members!

The case against Telegram

It’s not all sunshine-and-roses. Telegram, as of writing this article, does not support group video calls- a feature that is massively popular among WhatsApp users (but this feature is coming really soon!). Another area of criticism is Telegram’s end-to-end encryption which is not enabled by default. The company also recently indicated that it might bring ins some form of ads to keep up with the rising costs.

Overall, I do think that Telegram is a very good alternative to WhatsApp - and with over 500 million people already using it, chances are you will find many of your friends and family already using it.

The bottom line: We think Telegram, even with some of its issues, is the best WhatsApp alternative out there as of 2021.

Download Telegram from the Google Play Store or the iOS App Store.

Signal: It's free and has privacy as its central focus

Signal chat
Signal has seen a lot of celebrity endorsements recently. But will people stay? / © Google Play Store

Signal has emerged as a strong WhatsApp alternative in 2021. The app’s popularity spiked soon after WhatsApp made its infamous announcement. Having been endorsed by people like Edward Snowden and Elon Musk, Signal has continued to hark on its focus on privacy and security as its best features. Signal, like WhatsApp and Telegram, also has its desktop app so you can message seamlessly via your smartphone or computer. 

While not as strong as Telegram in terms of ancillary features, Signal’s core messaging features that include one-on-one chats, groups, video, and voice calling, are known to work pretty well. What makes Signal stand out, however, is its relentless attempt to be a secure platform and its commitment to remain one forever. The company has said that it will always remain free of ads and affiliate marketers.

The case against Signal

Signal currently has a user base of 50 million, which is significantly lesser than that of either WhatsApp or Telegram. The hardest reason to switch to Signal is not the app itself - but the lack of enough people to chat with on this secure app.

The bottom line: Signal is a great app for people wary and unsure of Telegram's true intentions. 

Download Signal from the Google Play Store or the iOS App Store.

Threema: Will you pay for a secure, privacy-focused messaging app?

Threema
Threema is a nice app. But you need to pay to use it./ © Threema

Threema is quite a popular messaging app in Europe but is yet to make waves internationally. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that unlike most of its peers that are free to use, Threema is a paid app that costs you $2.99 to download.

In exchange for this rather small amount, you do get an app that is quite feature-packed. Apart from supporting group chats, distribution lists, and channels, Threema now also supports audio/video calls and even polls. Threema also gets a desktop client - albeit the philosophy here is the same as that of WhatsApp in that the desktop app needs to be tethered to the phone for it to work.

What makes Threema stand out from WhatsApp, however, is its stress on privacy. After you pay your $2.99, the company doesn't want to know anything about you. Just create your ID and start using the app anonymously forever. Finding a person using their ID is possible only when they voluntarily offer you access. As you might have expected, all communication via Threema is end-to-end encrypted, and no data is stored on their servers.

The case against Threema

While it is feature-packed, Threema’s paid business model means it will continue to attract a niche audience who are super concerned about online privacy. In its current form, it is unlikely to reach the critical mass reached by the likes of WhatsApp, Telegram, or even Signal. Oh, and in case I forget, Threema isn’t too great when it comes to moving chat backups from one device to another.

The rest of the messengers in this list are nowhere as popular as the ones mentioned above - or have transitioned into a messaging app after being designed for something else originally, but we list them anyway so that you are aware of the choices.

The bottom line: Get Threema if you believe in the motto of "pay for your privacy". But convincing your friends to pay for a messaging app is going to be hard. 

Download Threema from the Google Play Store or the iOS App Store.

iMessage: Need an iPhone to use it!

imessage
iMessage is great. But you need an iPhone to use it! Also, it is popular mostly in the United States / © Apple

iMessage is a widely used messaging client in the U.S. among iPhone users in the country. It is, however, yet to make significant waves outside the U.S., where WhatsApp continues to rule the roost. 

Given the popularity of iPhones and iOS in the U.S., however, chances are high most people can do with iMessage alone as their messaging app. With iMessage, people can send messages to any smartphone out there, and it supports end-to-end encryption as well.

The app also supports multi-platform messaging - restricted to Apple products only. In some countries, you can also use iMessage to send and receive money using Apple Pay. But that is a feature that even WhatsApp has enabled for some countries using a service called WhatsApp Pay.

The case against iMessage

As if it isn't obvious already, to use iMessage, you need to be part of the iOS ecosystem. While you can receive messages sent via iMessage on other devices, you do miss out on the key features if you are not part of the Apple cult. While there have been calls for an Android iMessage app, the chances of that happening remain slim. 

All things said, chances are high if you are in the U.S., you are already using iMessage instead of WhatsApp since the latter is not quite as popular in the land of the yanks.

The bottom line: iMessage requires you to invest in an Apple product. Besides, almost no one seems to use it outside the USA.

Discord: Think beyond gaming!

Discord Mobile Screen share
Discord has become a surprisingly good WhatsApp alternative among gamers / © Discord

Wait, what? Discord as a messaging app? 

As it turns out, you might be already aware of Discord being a fairly famous game chat platform. However, over time, it has transitioned into a feature-packed messaging platform that supports a ton of useful and powerful features.

In fact, going forward, there is a good chance that Discord could turn into an even better messaging app and a viable WhatsApp alternative. In fact, if you happen to be an avid gamer, many of you might be already using Discord as your primary messaging app.

As of writing this, Discord supports several features like one-on-one chats, group chats, group calling, and media sharing. The group chats feature, however, is restricted to just 10 people at this time. Oh, did we say that Discord has native apps for a wide variant of platforms, including Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, and even Linux?

The case against Discord

Discord - as popular as it is among gamers - continues to be a relatively unknown entity among people looking for a WhatsApp alternative. Therefore, the chances of Discord growing beyond the scope of a gaming platform remains slim at this point.

While we do not see Discord itself trying to position itself as a WhatsApp alternative, some of its features do make it somewhat of an indirect WhatsApp alternative for at least a small percentage of users.

The bottom line: Discord is popular among gamers. Not so much among members of the general messenger app downloading public. 

Download Discord from the Google Play Store or the iOS App Store.

What about the rest?

Apart from these popular apps, there are a ton of other so-called "WhatsApp alternatives" available for download via either the Google Play Store or the iOS App Store including the likes of WickrMe, Keybase, and Viber. And while some of these apps may come with many attractive features, they all lack the one thing that is needed for any messaging app to succeed. A significant user base.

Another key app that we did not add to the top five list above is Google's own Messages app which is the default SMS app on most Android smartphones these days.

In 2019, Google updated the Messages app with support for RCS (Rich Communication Services). This basically enabled the once SMS-only app to support features like media and location sharing, message read receipts and typing indicators. While this was a welcome move and a good iMessage alternative for Android devices, most of these features are now offered on standalone messaging apps like Telegram, Signal, and Threema - often with much better implementation and fewer restrictions (especially on file sizes). 

With apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal continuing to rise in popularity, the chances of a new messaging kid on the block causing a major disruption is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future. Do you use WhatsApp daily? Or are you planning to switch to one of these WhatsApp alternatives? Also, if you think we have missed listing an app that you thought should have been a part of this list, do let us know in the comments below!

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  • I have a hard time understanding why people want to limit their comms to who is on a particular app. The freedom of regular text messaging, the privacy is better, barring a Stingray in use. And there are plenty of apps to meet your aesthetic preferences.

    If you like improved privacy, Signal is the solution, but you do get locked into your partners also using Signal. Hopefully soon, an open encrypted format will evolve to free us from the tyranny of in-app lock in.


    • Rahul Srinivas
      • Admin
      • Staff
      1 day ago Link to comment

      We seem to have regressed in this regard. I recall back in the mid-2000s, it was possible to use a single app to be in touch with friends across multiple messaging platforms. Remember apps like Agile Messenger (Symbian!), Fring, Nimbuzz, and Palringo.


      • storm 21 hours ago Link to comment

        Yes, the loss of compatibility is a step backwards. Companies push lock-in and the consumer doesn't really think about how it works across systems with their family and friends. We're considering moving to Germany and the Whatsapp near universality there is a negative weighing against the move.

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