Signal vs. WhatsApp: Which One is Good to Use?

Ruheni Mathenge Last updated: May 12, 2023 Read time: 13 minutes Disclosure

Here's a feature-wise Signal vs. WhatsApp comparison, today's most popular messaging apps, to help you find your best pick.

Signal and WhatsApp are great instant messaging apps that enable you to communicate with family and friends. They both employ end-to-end encryption to protect your conversations. However, Signal is more privacy-friendly as it belongs to a privacy-oriented foundation. Whereas WhatsApp is owned by Facebook’s parent firm Meta, which is known for collecting and sharing user data. But is WhatsApp all that bad? How and where does Signal stand in the way of WhatsApp’s popularity? Here’s a detailed Signal vs. WhatsApp comparison to answer these questions.

Signal and WhatsApp are the two most popular messaging apps people use daily to exchange messages, photos, and links. They both use end-to-end encryption technology that encodes the sender’s message so that only the intended receiver can decipher it. It helps prevent third parties, including app developers, from reading your messages. But if both of them are similar, why does the battle of Signal vs. WhatsApp go on?

There are numerous claims that Signal is more secure and private than WhatsApp. Is this true? This detailed comparison of the Signal app and WhatsApp messenger lays out more.

Signal vs. WhatsApp compared at a glance

The first thing you consider when choosing an instant messaging app is the features it offers. Although Signal and WhatsApp have numerous similar security features, there are a few differences.

Feature Signal WhatsApp
Monthly users  40 million  2 billion 
Parent company  Signal Foundation Meta Platforms, Inc. 
Data Sharing 🗶
Validation of encryption/ user ID  ✔ (limited) 
End-to-end encryption
Message notification shielding  ✔ (limited) 
Screen lock 
Disappearing message feature   ✔ (limited)
Call relay to disguise the IP address 🗶

What is Signal app?

Signal is a free secure messaging app that focuses on privacy and has many features. It has apps for Android and iOS and clients for macOS, Windows, and Linux, and you only need a phone number to get started.

The user experience is similar to other popular messaging apps like WhatsApp, with features like one-to-one messages, groups, stickers, voice and video calls, file transfers, and photos. In addition, it allows you to have a group chat of up to 1000 people and group calls of 8 people. 

Signal is a product of a non-profit organization that is entirely funded by grants and donations. Unlike other messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal owners are not trying to make money with the service. So, don’t expect to get ads, affiliate links, or tracking. Also, it is not associated with any major tech company, so sharing data won’t be an issue.

Furthermore, Signal is built on open-source software, which means anyone can scrutinize the source code to check for vulnerabilities.

How to set up a Signal account

Setting up the Signal application is a straightforward process. You only need a phone number and an iOS or Android device. Follow these steps.

  • Go to Apple’s app store on iOS or Google Play Store on Android and download the latest version of Signal. Follow the prompts to install the application.
  • The app will ask for permission to access your contacts. This is important, especially if you want to know who uses Signal among your contacts.
  • Enter your phone number and confirm it is correct.
  • You will receive an OTP confirmation which you will enter to confirm your number.
  • Add a profile picture as well as a profile name.
  • Set an alphanumeric PIN that you can remember. The PIN is important in case you wish to switch phone numbers in the future. 
  • You can now start messaging online and download desktop versions for Linux, Mac, and Windows.

What is WhatsApp?

Introduced in 2009, WhatsApp is a free communication app that allows you to send messages, make voice and video calls, and share statuses. One of the reasons the service is more appealing is the cross-platform functionality letting you use it on various phones and computer operating systems. As a result, you can use the service anytime and anywhere.

Like Signal, WhatsApp also uses end-to-end encryption and does not show ads. Also, business accounts have added features. But unfortunately, it is owned by Meta, which raises privacy concerns.

How to install WhatsApp

You can get up and running with WhatsApp in a few minutes. Follow these steps.

  • Download and install the WhatsApp application in the App Store for iOS users and the Play Store for Android users.
  • Open the application and approve the permissions requested.
  • Enter your current mobile number and confirm
  • WhatsApp automatically verifies your phone number, or you may receive a verification code that you must enter to continue.
  • You can optionally import existing contacts, messages, and media and start chatting.