Did you know that every single SMS text message and voice call that you send and receive are being collected and stored forever? Every time you push ‘send’ or place/receive a phone call, that activity is being recorded and the metadata (location of the device, call duration, who you contacted, etc) also recorded. For this reason we must use and encourage others to use privacy respecting messenger apps to fill our communication needs.

Apps such as Signal, Wire, Session and others offer extremely good privacy and use encryption to secure our communications, or ‘commo’. If you want to learn more about Big Tech and US Government involvement in data collection and monitoring, just do some homework on the PRISM program started back in early 2000’s. This program gave the US Government access to servers at Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Verizon and many other Big Tech companies, and lately we have seen them caught red handed abusing that access to violate our privacy. Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations shocked the world and highlighted how we are being constantly recorded by Big Tech and our government agencies.

In this section we will discuss some of the top apps that we recommend, and some details on each one and how they stack up against each other in the following areas:

-Are they using good encryption and security? 

-Do they require a valid phone number and/or email to sign up?

-What features do they have? Text, Call, Video Chat? Share documents, pictures and other files?

-Usability, is it easy to use for the average person?

-Is it free?

Of course there are many other considerations, but those are the minimum I want to know when selecting a messenger app. Let’s dive in to each one and how I personally rate them.


  1. Signal
  2. Session
  3. Wire
  4. Briar
  5. Telegram
  6. Element (Matrix)
  7. XMPP
  8. Threema (paid)


1. Signal

Signal has become extremely well and widely adopted and should be considered a first choice for messages, phone calls and video calls. Group messaging can support up to 1000 people per group, video calls can support up to 40 people at once. Signal is Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) and uses strong encryption protocols by default. One drawback from a privacy angle is the requirement to use it in conjunction with a valid cell phone number, however this feature also makes it easier to connect with a contact. This may be why Signal has been widely accepted, its ease of use, simplicity in addition to great security.

Signal also works not just on Android and iPhone, but on Windows, macOS and Linux (you will need a phone number still to use on desktop.) Signal can also be used with WiFi only, so if cell service is not available but you do have internet, calls and messages work fine. *Note: you can download Signal app as an APK instead of using Google Play Store if you are on an Android based phone. I believe this used to avoid a Google tracker, however this no longer appears to be the case as neither contain trackers that we know of, but the less clicks I give Google, the better.

In Signal, you can set each contact with ‘Disappearing Messages’ at various intervals in days or weeks. This feature automatically deletes any content older than the interval you set.


Another side note, there is a fork of Signal called Molly which can be used. This is helpful if you want to use multiple accounts of a Signal like app on a single phone. Molly or Molly-FOSS is available on F-Droid store:



2. Session

Session is about two years behind Signal in development but is rapidly becoming an extremely strong contender for privacy and security, no email or phone number required to use. Rob Braxman does a great breakdown of the latest features here:

Session is FOSS, decentralized and encrypted. With no cell number or email required, this can be truly anonymous if you wish. While video calls are not quite yet supported, expect this app to look, function and feel much like Signal, very easy to use. For those like me who like having a backup plan, consider setting up Session among your important contacts as a backup contact method should Signal stop working for any reason. Session is also available now for desktop on Windows, macOS and Linux. For mobile, download the app via F-Droid app store if using Android.



3. Wire

Wire offers a free tier for users, this app is not as popular as Signal but also provides a great way to communicate. Paid tiers bring in a huge leap in supported features, but many will be fine with the free version. The free version offers cloud and messaging up to five users. As with the other apps on this page, Wire is available for both mobile and desktop platforms. Wire is FOSS and is E2EE (End to End Encrypted) for great privacy and security. Like Session, no cell number or email is required to use Wire, and the app is fairly intuitive to use.

For extra security, you can lock Wire app on your device with an 8 digit minimum password.




4. Briar


Briar is not quite prime time ready as your end all be all messenger app, however it has robust privacy and security features by default with some very valid use cases. This is only a message app currently, although voice and images, possibly video chat may be possible one day also. Briar also does not require any cell number or email to use and is FOSS.

One major difference with Briar is its ability to function offline via Bluetooth/Wireless up to a few hundred meters or so, direct from device to device with no internet connection of any type. While limited in range in this mode, this function could come in quite handy in grid down scenarios for communicating. Messages are peer to peer encrypted over the Tor network when internet is available for worldwide use, with no messages being stored in a cloud or central server. Briar can also function as a decentralized mesh network (see diagram above), and offers an extremely private and anonymous method of communication for high threat profile people such as journalists, activists, dissidents, etc. Currently, Briar is developing a desktop version of the app as well.

Briar can be slightly difficult to establish contacts with, but once you are linked with a contact, the app is extremely simple to use, and I would consider it a top choice for highly sensitive communication.

For an extra layer of security, set a password lock on the app. In Briar, click the menu icon on upper left, enable ‘App lock’ under Settings>Security.



5. Telegram


Telegram is a unique app, think of it as a hybrid between messenger and social media. While I don’t use this for standard messaging or calls, I do use this app daily to keep up with news and areas of interest such as technology, gardening, politics, etc. I use this mainly in a ‘pull’ lifestyle and leave notifications off, this way the app is not bothering me, and I only view content when I want to seek it out. Telegram does offer encrypted messages, however this is not enabled by default and is not top of my list for privacy or security message apps. Telegram also requires a phone number to use, however you can hide it from other users under your Privacy settings in your account.

Apple and Google (and some countries) censor certain parts of Telegram at the Operating System level also, so unless you are on a de-Googled phone, you’re going to not have access to certain posts or channels. Assume that everything you view or send in this app, outside of one on one encrypted messages, may be monitored by various entities (this is speculation on my part), however I still find a lot of use for this app in my daily life to pull information. Telegram is an excellent way to learn more about tech, there are an abundance of channels out there to follow and interact on, check out a few of them here.

Also worth pointing out is that there are several different versions of the Telegram app, I would recommend avoiding the regular app stores and download Telegram FOSS from F-Droid. Telegram can be downloaded directly from their site also, however that version contains more permissions, and at least one tracker that I’m aware of, where the FOSS version does not have the tracker or quite as many permissions.

Like with other messenger apps, you can set a PIN code lock for your account, so even if someone gets access to your unlocked phone, they won’t be able to unlock your Telegram without the PIN.




6. Element (Matrix)

Element offers a robust platform for messages, file sharing, voice and video chat and just about any other type of collaboration. Share content and communicate one on one or as a group, Element uses Matrix which is FOSS and does not contain any ads or big tech tracking or surveillance.

Works on all mobile and desktop devices including a web based option, Element can be configured with E2EE (End to End Encryption) and decentralized. While this is an excellent app, some users may find its setup to be different compared to other messaging apps, however once configured to your liking, is relatively easy to use.




XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) is a messaging protocol to be aware of that has been in use for quite some time. There are quite a number of various messenger apps that use XMPP. Here is a great brief description:






8. Threema

Threema is loved by many, however it is a paid app. They do offer a 30 day free trial at least to test it out at no cost. With apps like Signal and Session available for free, this becomes less appealing, but worth mentioning as Threema has over 10 million users.





These are ranked roughly in order of my preference for overall privacy, security and adoption for the average user, but each person will have their own preferences and needs. Any of these methods of communication are leaps and bounds ahead of sending standard SMS messages or voice calls, try to get your family and friends moved over to one or several of these apps. Using apps like these can drastically reduce the data that you give up to Big Tech and the entities that they share and sell this data to. Steer away from SMS texting and the WhatsApp type apps that collect our metadata and other telemetry from our devices.

Also see our Video Chat Apps page to see more apps for video conference calling

Video Chat Apps