*** NOTE: ALL INFORMATION IS ACCURATE AT DATE OF PUBLISHING ***

OK, I tell a lie, it is partly you WhatsApp. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with WhatsApp for some time. I even wrote about how much I feel it invades my mental space last year. However, it’s how pretty much everyone I know communicates. Back in 2014, Facebook purchased WhatsApp. Things pretty much stayed the same, and WhatsApp was pretty much a separate service, with no need to tie anything back to Facebook. But that is changing.

New WhatsApp Policy

Information surfaced this month about a new privacy policy which needed to be agreed to prior to February 8th, otherwise you could no longer use WhatsApp. What’s more, even if you didn’t agree to it, but just deleted the app from your phone, your information could still be shared. Part of the agreement seemed to be that your data would be shared with Facebook, regardless of if you were even a Facebook user. According to this article from the Independent:

“As part of the Facebook family of companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, this family of companies,” the new privacy policy states. “We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings.”

Although your messages can’t be accessed directly by them, to me, this just reeks of new advertising opportunities for Facebook. However, if you are in the EU and the UK, there is a different policy which applies, which means the enhanced sharing of data should not apply to you. So, two new agreements, one for the EU & UK, and one for all places outside that.

Accepting The New Policy

Should you accept the new policy? That’s up to you and could concern you more if you live outside the European Union or the UK. It could be that it’s the sharing of data that concerns you, or like for me… it could be that you are pretty tired of your data being shared or sold for the profit of large corporations like Facebook. Before I knew the changes were not as invasive in my homeland, I started looking into alternatives and found two. Signal and Telegram. Both take a strong stance on not sharing your data, and both use encryption methods so sending of messages is secure. I downloaded both and saw that several people I knew were already on each one, but vastly more on Telegram, so I started to dig into it further. I can’t say it’s better than Signal, but I do LOVE some of the features it has.

UPDATE: Since writing this, I have also written a post all about Signal which includes a comparison table for WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram. You can read that here.

The Same As WhatsApp

There are a ton of things that are the same as WhatsApp which is great.

  • It’s intuitive, and if you have used WhatsApp, you will need no time to really get used to Telegram
  • You can message individuals that are in the contacts list on your phone
  • There is an app for Android & iPhone
  • If you want to send messages from your laptop/desktop computer, you can do that too
  • You can create groups, and be part of groups
  • Making voice and video calls can be done easily

Better Than Or Different To WhatsApp

OK, to me, there are a TON of things that are better. Some of these might not bother you, and there could even be things included I haven’t noticed because they were never an issue for me with WhatsApp, but here is what I have found so far.

Groups

Anyone who knows me well, knows there is a bit of a running joke in our community about me and WhatsApp groups. I will join, but usually leave within a few days. I get overwhelmed with so many messages, and even though you can mute a group in WhatsApp, that notification number when you open the app is just THERE STARING AT ME!!! I also don’t like that ANYONE can add me to a Group without me even wanting to be in it.

  • You can have up to 200,000 members in a group, compared with 256 in WhatsApp (oh my god, imagine all the messages!!! )
  • Smart notifications on a group are a dream to me 😉 – you can mute the group, which means you will only be notified when someone mentions you or replies to one of your messages. Yes!
  • You can pin a message that will be displayed at the top of the chat screen. I think this one should be used with caution…. all members will get a notification, even if they have already muted notifications for the group
  • You can mute ALL groups or just specific ones
  • As an Administrator, you can delete the messages from other members in a group. I can see this totally being abused in groups among friends for a laugh, but a good way to address any abuse from members of groups for an organisation, club or any kind of group where you’ve got people with a shared interest

iPad App

This might be important for Apple fans. Apparently, there is no WhatsApp app for the iPad, but there is with Telegram.

Pin Chats

Some chats might ALWAYS be more important than others to you. For this, you can pin a chat so it stays at the top of the list. Simple press and hold the chat from the list so that a ribbon menu appears at the top. From there click on the three dots (or the ellipsis if you are fancy) then click on Pin from the top of that menu. Your chat will stay there until you follow the same actions and click Unpin instead.

Last Seen Time & Online Status

This one I really like. When looking at a list of your Contacts, the default setting shows exactly when they were last seen on the app, and if they are currently online. I’m not a fan of that, but the good news is, you can change it in the settings. If you go to Settings, then Privacy and Security, then click on Last Seen & Online. You can change it to allow everyone to see that, just those people in your Contacts list, or Nobody. Even better, you can add exceptions. So you might want to let a spouse/partner or friend see this, but no one else. Or, if you are using this for work, and have a group set up for your team, just add that group in as an exception. If you change your settings to Nobody, keep in mind this means you will not be able to see the last seen time or online status for anyone else, it works both ways!

Access To Your Phone Number

This was always something that has bugged me with WhatsApp. If I am put in a group and I don’t know everyone, I don’t necessarily want them to have my phone number. Another setting in the Privacy and Security menu is to set the privacy level for your Phone Number. Again, I can allow it to be seen by Everybody, only those people in my phones Contacts list, or Nobody. I can also set up exceptions to either always allow specific people to see it, or never allow specific people to see it. Obviously if there is someone who has your number, and are not in your Contacts, they will still see it.

Read Notifications

This one to me is a negative. With WhatsApp, I could decided if I wanted the little blue ticks to display when I had read a message. I have that currently turned off (much to the annoyance of some 😂). There doesn’t seem to be a way to turn that off in Telegram. There is one check mark, or tick, shown when a message is delivered to the Telegram cloud, and two checks when the message has been read by the person you sent it to. Even turning off notifications still seemed to generate the two ticks when I read a message from someone. The fact that I can turn off the online status is good, but ideally would like to have this feature work in Telegram too.

Folders

Chats can be moved in to folders, providing you with a way to separate out communication with people from different areas of your life. If you go in to settings, Folders is one of the options available. From there, you can create new folders then add specific chats in to them. Folders are also recommended to you such as Personal, showing only messages from personal chats. Unread is another one, showing chats that have unread messages in them. You can also add specific types of chats in to a folder, so can have a Groups folder that includes all group chats, or a Channels folder with all channel broadcasts.

Channels

I think this is perhaps one of my favourite features. Think of a Channel like a broadcast. You could use it to send out a message to anyone who has subscribed to the channel. So consider it used at a school to send a message to students, or within an organisation to send to employees. You can make a channel public for anyone to access, which they can find by searching in Telegram, or use the direct link for someone to then access like this: t.me/meganvwalker_blog (and yes, that works!). Private channels are closed and can only be accessed if you are added by the owner, or get a link to join. There is no way for people to respond to the broadcasts you send out to the channel, although you can set up a Group and link it to the Channel for discussion.

Username

When you add the app to your phone, and sign up, you provide your phone number. You can then also add a username (although you are not immediately prompted to). If you you create a user name, people can then search for and find you in the Telegram app. I like this feature as it means people can still message you without you needing to give your phone number to everyone. Just share the link with people so they can message you from Telegram. I think this feature could be great for a small business owner who wants to be able to communicate with people but not have people calling their phone at any time of the day or night.

Secret Chats & Self Destructing Messages

This is an interesting concept. You can create a chat where no messages from that chat can be forwarded to anyone else. If you delete a message, the recipient will also have to delete the message. You can also add a setting that makes sure messages with ‘self-destruct’ after a certain amount of time. Once you send a message, and the recipient opens it, it will be deleted from both devices as soon as the timer ends. Feel a bit shady to you? 😉

Animated Stickers

Another fun feature in Telegram is the array of animated stickers. They are pretty epic. I’ve already started using this A LOT!

Polls

You can add polls to a group chat. This is a great feature to have, and even allows you to set anonymous voting, allow for multiple answers, and set it as a quiz mode with a right or wrong answer.

Edit Sent Messages

Once a message is sent in WhatsApp, that’s it, you can’t go back and change it. You either leave it as it is, or you delete it… but then you are left with a notification that you deleted something… often leading to questions as to what it was! With Telegram, you can select a message and then edit it to adjust the message.

Add To Home Screen

Finally, I can add a chat or group to the home screen of my phone which creates a little icon to jump right to it in Telegram. Perfect if you have one chat or group you go to a lot and want to get to it quickly.

In Summary

What started out as a knee jerk reaction to news about the new privacy policy change from WhatsApp has ended with me finding a new messaging app I really love. In an ideal world EVERYONE I know would start using Telegram, and I can feel happy about saying goodbye to WhatsApp for good. Time will tell if I go that route, but I am leaning heavily in that direction. Let me know what you think. Are you bothered by the changes? Are you looking for other options and likely to try something new like Telegram?


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