Chaimtime Blog

Use Signal: Please

This is my plea to get you to use Signal, an encrypted text message platform. At this point SMS is completely insecure. Even two factor messages, the messages your bank sends with a special code is no longer recommended by NIST. Instead of convincing you to switch to a data type messenger like WhatsApp, I’m going to ask just to install a new SMS app. Basically, for those on Signal, you will be encrypted. Everyone else will just be a standard SMS. The goal is to get more people on Signal.

If you are on iOS, you will never switch from iMessage. I get that, I’ll never win this argument. Just do me a favor and read on. Just remember iMessage isn’t secure. You have to trust about regarding their security. Remember only blue bubbles are iMessage, not green bubbles. This is something else you have to manage.

Android users have a choice in SMS apps. You can put app you want to send and receive text messages. Seriously, move off the default app. You know the default app, that never gets updated, has carrier or manufacture branding like an advertisement everywhere, and is probably horribly designed. What is the difference in apps if they all look the same? The great part about android is that you can default apps. If you’ve used Android for any length of time, Google has moved people off their app, onto hangouts, and back to their app. Even Google has forced people to move.

You must be saying, why should we do this? How do we know it is secure? Here is one answer. This is from the developers. The EFF likes it a lot. Yes, the scorecard is old, but the new one is coming, and it is front and center.

A nice touch, and my requirement of messaging apps is to have a desktop client. Signal has a desktop client for Signal -> Signal users. I don’t know of any app that will push SMS to your computer.

I’ve put all the stock messenger apps I could find. If you look (not even closely), they are all the same thing. They are all material design. If it isn’t, then you should uninstall it because it is now 3+ years old without a meaningful update. Even Apple Music is Material Design.

Screens of Other Apps

AOSP Messenger: The original messenger app. When Android was conceived, this is the default app that was built in. Most manufacturers initially never changed it. Once they realized how much time people spent in the app, they wrote their own app.
Google Messenger: Follows Material Design guidelines. Google has had problems with this adoption. They recently made this the default on their phones, removing the old ASOP messenger. This is what I was using until Signal came along. It is clean, follows the design guidelines, and gets updated regularly.

Carrier Apps

Verizon: Follows Material Design Guidelines. This is good except for all the tabs at the top. What is “photos and videos” or “egifts.”
Motorola: This looks like Holo design, an older UI design. While not bad, most Android phones have moved onto Material Design. It is sad that Motorola hasn’t updated their design, and instead of deprecating the app, they left it on.

Non-SMS Apps

Facebook: Does not follow the Material Design specifications. Facebook is trying to have the same UI/UX on both platforms. The symbols at the top are tough to understand unless you already know what they are. While not an SMS app by nature, it started asking to integrate SMS for you.
WhatsApp: Just like Motorola, this is an old UI design. Just like Facebook they are trying to keep the UI/UX the same to its iOS counterpart. If you are using WhatsApp, then just install Signal already.

Finally Signal

Signal: The app follows all current design specifications. Has both sent and delivered (not read) receipts. It looks the same as the other SMS apps, but has the ability to send encrypted messages to other Signal users.

A note on WhatsApp: WhatsApp uses the same encryption scheme as Signal. They basically asked the developers, to integrate their program into theirs. The difference between the two is that WhatsApp is not SMS, even though it uses the phone number for identity. In a perfect world you would be using WhatsApp for everything.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Let’s answer some questions:

Q: Is it free?
A: Yes

Q: I don’t know how to install apps?
A: Really? And you have a smart phone?

Q: I don’t have room on my phone.
A: It is 15.5 MB. You can download on LTE. Facebook clocks in at over 115MB Facebook. Talking about facebook, just use it on the browser. You will save the space, and see a significant battery life improvement.

Q: I never have the time.
A: Ever get bored on the toilet?

Q: Is it hard to set as default SMS?
A: No, it even asks you.

Q: I want to go back to my old app, can I do it easily?
A: Yes, and I’m sure it will make sure it sets itself as default

Q: Do I really need encryption?
A: If your only barrier to entry is to install a simple app, why not? Wouldn’t you like to share your social with your spouse, or your netflix password without worry?

Q: Why can’t I install it when I need it?
A: You can, but you won’t remember. Also, if you are doing something that actually requires encryption, it is a huge red flag. You know when someone is hiding something. They act all weird. Same idea.

Q: My friends won’t use another app.
A: They don’t have to. That is the beauty of Signal. If they want to stay with SMS, they can. I suggest you show them this post and explain the why they should download Signal.