Signal vs. Telegram: Which is better?

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Both Signal and Telegram have their strengths and weaknesses.

(Image credit: Ascannio/Shutterstock)

Many users left the well-known chat program WhatsApp last year after it started requiring users to share data with Facebook, switching to other free messaging services in its place. Two of the most popular alternatives to Signal and Telegram are also included in our list of the top encrypted chat applications.

However, Signal and Telegram differ significantly from one another and are likely to appeal to various users in different ways. Let’s compare them to one another to see how they compare.

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Signal vs. Telegram: Features compared

Signal Telegram
Encryption End-to-end by default using the Signal Protocol Some end-to-end options using the MTProto 2.0 protocol
Data collected None except phone number Phone number, contacts, IP address
Messaging types Individual, group, video, voice Individual, group, channels, video, voice
Self-destruct messaging Yes, for all chats Yes, for Secret Chats only
Customization Limited Extensive
Cost Free Free

Signal vs. Telegram: Which is more secure?

The bottom line: Signal is the obvious choice if security is your top priority.

In terms of security, Signal comes out on top. To begin with, all Signal messages are end-to-end encrypted by default, meaning that only you and the others with whom you are communicating can access your messages.

Contrarily, end-to-end encryption is only present in some of the messages and voice calls made using Telegram. Employees of Telegram, police enforcement, and others may be able to see the rest. The message types will be covered in more detail below.

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Because the encryption technology used by Signal is open-source and accessible to everyone, any faults can be immediately identified and rectified. Also using it for encryption is WhatsApp.

Telegram employs its proprietary MTProto 2.0 protocol, which is open-source on the client side, for its encrypted Secret Chats. Although the general perception seems to be that it is more secure than MTProto 1.0, several information-security experts claim that Telegram’s “homegrown encryption technology(opens in new tab)” has a limited track record in comparison to Signal’s (opens in new tab).

The MTProto 2.0 protocol used by Telegram was examined in a scholarly study paper(opens in new tab) that was released in December 2020, and it was found to be fundamentally sound. However, the study went on to state that “additional analysis” was required “in order to pronounce this protocol suite definitely secure.”

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Compared to Telegram, Signal gathers a lot less information about its users. Signal typically simply keeps track of when you last connected and the date you started your account. Your IP address, which consequently reveals your location, as well as who you are speaking with and when, may all be included in Telegram’s information. When law enforcement officials arrive at the service provider’s facilities with a search warrant, it is important.

Signal discussions can be started by entering a different person’s phone number, however Telegram requires access to your contacts before you can send anyone a message.

Signal once again demonstrates that it is the best option for anyone who are worried about big tech eavesdropping on private talks.

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While a non-profit foundation owns Signal, Russian billionaires Pavel and Nikolai Durov, who also founded VK, the most well-known social network in the nation, founded Telegram. Although their business is headquartered in London, the brothers no longer reside in Russia, and many of its core operations are located in Dubai.

Signal vs. Telegram: Device support

Telegram has a slight edge in this category, with support for Windows Phone(opens in new tab) as well as a Chrome browser extension(opens in new tab) and a fully web-based option(opens in new tab). Both Signal and Telegram are available on the following platforms: 

iOS (Signal(opens in new tab)Telegram(opens in new tab))

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MacOS (Signal(opens in new tab)Telegram(opens in new tab))

Android (Signal(opens in new tab)Telegram(opens in new tab))

Windows (Signal(opens in new tab)Telegram(opens in new tab))

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Linux (Debian-based distros for Signal(opens in new tab)32-bit(opens in new tab) and 64-bit(opens in new tab) versions for Telegram)

Signal vs. Telegram: Installation and ease of use

Both applications’ installation procedures are rather straightforward: Install the app on the platform of your choice, register with your phone number, and then enter the SMS-verified verification code. (Occasionally, Telegram will call you to give you the code.)

To complete your profile, both sites require a first name, but neither demands that it be your true name. With Signal, you may also use an emoji or an alias. You’ll be asked if you want to give an app access to your contacts or other permissions.

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You must then create a PIN for Signal. With Telegram, you may find this step under Settings > Privacy & Security > Passcode Lock, which is optional but advised.

Both Signal and Telegram require that you first create an account through the mobile app before you can enable a desktop version. An internal QR code in the Signal app allows for device pairing. However, you can also use your phone number and an SMS verification code in addition to Telegram’s QR code.

Prior to this year, whenever you changed your phone number, Signal needed you to register a new account. As long as you continue to use the same phone, you can now migrate your account to a new number. As long as you’re not transferring from Android to iOS or vice versa, you can move your account to a new phone that uses the same number as the old one.

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In Telegram(opens in new tab), changing phone numbers is much simpler and can be done directly from the app. The fact that numerous devices can be logged into a single Telegram account(opens in new tab) as long as they use the same phone number makes switching phones absolutely no trouble. (However, you should maintain your Telegram password a closely guarded secret.)

Signal vs. Telegram: Features

When it comes to chat options, both applications are comparable.

Individual messages: While basic one-on-one chats in Telegram are not encrypted end-to-end by default, individual messages in Signal are. You must open a Secret Chat if you wish to keep your Telegram chats private from Telegram.

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Group texting is a feature that is available on both platforms. Again, Telegram’s is not end-to-end encrypted, whereas Signal’s is. (There is no equivalent to Secret Chat for groups.) While Telegram enables up to 200,000 group members, Signal groups can have up to 1,000 participants.

Voice and video calls are both supported by the respective platforms. Using Signal, you may make encrypted calls alone or in groups of up to 40 people.

Both audio chat for big groups and end-to-end encrypted, one-on-one video calling are available on Telegram. Participants in voice chat can join and leave conversations at any time. Group voice chats in Telegram are only encrypted from the client device (such as a phone or desktop) to the server. In other words, anyone with access to Telegram’s servers can listen in.

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Communications that vanish: Signal messages in any one-on-one or group chat can be configured to vanish after five seconds to one week. Similar self-destruct features are available in Telegram for both ordinary chats and Secret Chats.

From then, the added privacy elements vary slightly and are less prevalent in Signal. If you’re sending media from protests, an image-blur application that lets you conceal faces in pictures and videos is helpful. There is also a screen-lock option that prevents you from opening the app without entering your password or biometric data. (Telegram also has one.)

You have the option to unsend messages with Telegram, which deletes them for both the sender and the recipient. You can also choose to have your account automatically delete itself after a predetermined amount of inactivity.

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Together with a number of other options we’ll discuss below, Telegram also functions more like a social media network.

Users can broadcast messages to an unlimited number of subscribers via channels, including text, photographs, videos, files, and podcasts. Like a radio station, the communication is one-way, and subscribers are unable to reply to channel messages. Channels might be open to everyone or private and invite-only.

Signal vs. Telegram: User experience

Telegram is the clear winner in this category since it offers significantly more customization choices. You may change a ton of settings like font size, color schemes, emoticons, animations, and notifications.

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If you send numerous song files at once and open them in the app’s integrated media player, playlists will be created. With People Nearby, you may conduct surveys and quizzes, edit pictures and videos, and see other people who are nearby (not a privacy-friendly feature).

Signal is a considerably simpler service that focuses on exchanging straightforward text, media, and audio conversations securely. However, it recently added animated stickers and expanded the number of emojis that are currently supported. In general, Signal is simple to use and doesn’t require any tweaking to maximize your experience.

Signal vs. Telegram: Verdict

The decision between Signal and Telegram ultimately comes down to your priorities. No matter which other features you use, Signal is the best choice if security and encryption are at the top of your list.

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Telegram might be a better option if you just sometimes need to send encrypted communications and want to take use of social network-style features. Just keep in mind that if you want your discussions to be encrypted end-to-end, you must deliberately choose Telegram’s Secret Chat option.

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