Many people are looking for an alternative to WhatsApp and find a new home in Signal. In this guide, we’ll give everyone who is using the chat app for the first time some practical tips. This is our beginner’s guide to Signal.
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Signal Beginner’s Guide: Getting Started with WhatsApp Alternative
WhatsApp is unsettled. The chat app has started sharing user data with Facebook, the parent company, in the United States. Many people are therefore looking for an alternative and that’s where Signal comes into play. The secure chat app puts itself in the spotlight with excellent privacy conditions, is free and available on almost all platforms.
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll focus on the basics. From downloading, chatting to maximum protection of your privacy: with these tips you can get started quickly. Tap one of the links below to jump directly to the appropriate section of this Signal beginner’s guide, or simply read the entire manual.
1. Download and install Signal
Before we start you need to download Signal. The app is available on almost all platforms. Tap the links below to download the WhatsApp alternative:
Then you have to ‘install’ the app. You do this by entering your phone number and filling in a profile. Optionally, you can also upload a photo so that conversation partners can see what you look like. While registering, Signal will send a text message for verification. You need the code from this message to create the profile.
Signal: private messaging app
Signal Messenger, LLC
2. This is how the app is built
You should now have access to Signal. The app is structured quite clearly. On the home screen you will find ongoing chats, at the top left of the settings menu and a new (group) chat is started by tapping the pencil at the top right. Do you want to send a photo to someone via Signal? Then tap the camera (next to the pencil).
3. You chat like this
Signal is a chat app just like WhatsApp. So you can have individual conversations as well as group conversations. You start an individual conversation by tapping the pencil icon in the top right of the screen and then selecting someone from the list. You create a group conversation by selecting “New group” at the top and then adding the participants.
From this menu you can also invite acquaintances to Signal, because you can only chat with each other if the app is installed on both smartphones. You can then send text, photos, videos and audio to each other, as you are used to from a chat app.
You can also call each other (video) via Signal. Open the chat with the person you want to speak to and tap the camera or phone button in the top right to get them on the line. Like WhatsApp, Signal can also handle stickers, or animated animations. You can use stickers by pressing the icon next to the camera. You can then download sticker packs and send them to the other.
4. Customize profile and app
Do you want to personalize your Signal profile? Then tap your profile icon at the top left of the screen. You will then be taken to the settings menu of the app. Press your name at the top to change it if necessary, and to upload a profile picture, for example.
You can also customize the appearance of the WhatsApp alternative from the settings menu. You can choose between a light and dark theme, or let the theme be determined by the system settings. Signal automatically switches off the light when the dark mode of your smartphone switches on.
5. Safer chat
Signal values privacy and is packed with smart things to keep your information secure. In Signal, for example, you can send “expiring messages” to each other, which automatically erases the content of messages after a period of time you specify. WhatsApp now also has this feature, but on Signal you can tinker with it more:
- Open the chat whose content you want to be automatically removed;
- Tap their name at the top and slide the switch at “Expiring messages”;
- Then indicate whether messages sent to each other should be deleted after 5 seconds, 1 week or everything in between. The timer starts running the moment the message is opened.
6. Tighten privacy on Signal
Signal is a privacy-aware chat app that you can make more secure or ‘looser’ as you wish. You can do this via the appropriate privacy options in the settings menu. From here you can switch read receipts on and off, block contacts and, for example, divert calls.
Phone calls to people who are not using Signal are redirected through the company’s servers. This keeps your IP address private and that is better for your privacy. You can also enable two-factor authentication in the privacy settings, so that malicious parties cannot hijack your account as easily.
Finally, it is also useful to turn on “Screen lock”, one of the simplest privacy options the app has to offer. This means that you have to log in to Signal before the content of messages becomes visible. Your fingerprint (Touch ID) or face scan (Face ID) is used for this.
7. Differences with WhatsApp
Broadly speaking, Signal does the same as WhatsApp: ensuring that you can maintain contact with others. However, the two are not identical to each other. Signal, for example, is less customizable than its competitor. For example, you cannot set a different chat background.
A more fundamental difference, however, lies in the earnings model. WhatsApp is part of Facebook, which took over the chat app for billions in 2014. Signal, on the other hand, does not have a clear revenue model and lives on donations. In addition, the source code of the app is public. It is therefore clear how the security and functioning of the app work.
Signal therefore relies on donations. You can donate via the settings menu at the top left of the screen of your smartphone. This can also be done via the official Signal website. The money is used to further develop the app, pay employees and maintain the technology. Signal promises never to track users over the internet and is averse to ads.
Get off WhatsApp
With this beginner’s guide you should be able to get started with Signal. Do you want to delete WhatsApp completely? That is very easy, but think about it carefully. The deletion of a profile is permanent. You cannot retrieve your chats after deletion.
In any case, there is no shortage of more privacy-aware alternatives to WhatsApp. You can try out chat apps such as Signal, Telegram and Wire with confidence. Check out our guide to WhatsApp alternatives for all options.