Signal or WhatsApp: comparison, differences and which app gets the preference

Signal counts as one safe and private alternative to WhatsApp. But does this app really come close to the second? Are privacy and security disadvantages compared to a full-fledged messaging app? Over the course of this review, we’ll find out how Signal and WhatsApp are similar and how they differ.

Signal and WhatsApp: How they are similar

The similarities between the two applications are striking. We can say that Signal has managed to adopt the simplicity of WhatsApp and focus on communication between users. Both have the same goal: to help you connect with other people.

user interface

Signal and WhatsApp user interfaceSignal and WhatsApp user interface

We begin the comparison by focusing on the program interface. In Android, both follow Google’s design guidelines and use elements such as function buttons in the lower-right corner. The main screen in both is just a simple list of chats. You can also access archived chats from here. It is important to mention that both applications have a search engine and access to it is in the same place.

Supported functions and formats

Properties in both applicationsProperties in both applications

The user interface remains very similar within the chats, as does the features included. Also noteworthy are the similarities in the location of the various links. At the top you will find the ones for video and voice calls. Below that is a text field where you can compose your messages and the corresponding buttons to attach other content. They also support self destructing messages man in the chat options.

Supported FormatsSupported Formats

Both Signal and WhatsApp support the same formats. It is possible to send photos, videos, GIF animations, files, contacts and the location in addition to the pure text. The only option not available in Signal is Roomthe Facebook Messenger chat rooms that have been integrated into WhatsApp for some time.

App settings

Similarities in the app settingsSimilarities in the app settings

Although they don’t have exactly the same layout, we can find similar options in the app settings of both applications. There are dedicated sections to manage notifications, options to customize chats, and a section dedicated to memory usage. You’ll even find a link to their respective support pages.


Point-to-point encryptionPoint-to-point encryption

Up until this point, you’ve probably had a hard time distinguishing between the two applications. But if we focus on safety, Signal and WhatsApp are like twins. Both use point-to-point encryption. Therefore, any content you submit is protected during the sending and receiving process. If you want to see the encryption key used to chat with another user, you can do so in the chat information. As you can see, the screen that displays this information is practically the same in both applications.

All these similarities between Signal and WhatsApp make it clear that the former is a perfectly valid alternative to the latter. Both offer the same options, in a very similar interface. But it’s not all the same.

Signal and WhatsApp: How they differ

Aside from a few minor differences, what differentiates Signal and WhatsApp is mostly something that isn’t visible to the naked eye.


The feature that differentiates Signal most from WhatsApp is the privacy it offers. We’ve already mentioned that both offer excellent levels of security. However, encrypting messages and other content end-to-end is not enough. WhatsApp tracks many of your movements and knows your position, your contacts, your groups you are in, how you use the app and many other details. Such information is valuable to Facebook, WhatsApp’s parent company, which uses it to target ads across the rest of its services to each person as much as possible. In the most simplified way, we can say that WhatsApp knows everything about us, except the content of our messages.

Signal, however, is from a run by a charitable foundation. That’s why it has no need to monitor all your activities. After all, their goal is not to make a financial return from their messaging platform, but rather to offer a truly private alternative. In fact, the similarities between the two applications show that it’s possible to offer a long list of features without compromising user privacy. Actually, privacy is the big difference between these two applications.

Some insignificant differences

Donations in Signal and status messages in WhatsAppDonations in Signal and status messages in WhatsApp

There are also small, almost imperceptible differences between Signal and WhatsApp. For example, WhatsApp allows you to create states, audiovisual photo montages that disappear after 24 hours. Signal does not offer this option. On the other hand supports signal donations from users. This allows them to cover the cost of maintaining the service. There are also differences in the limit of users per group, which is 1000 users for Signal and 256 for WhatsApp. Finally, Signal allows its users to send files and messages to themselves, a feature not available on its competitor. It is clear that these differences are very small and do not dispel the feeling that we are dealing with two practically identical applications.

Signal and WhatsApp: which one is better?

If we strictly limit ourselves to the available functions, we cannot pick a clear winner. But the big difference in privacy makes Signal the winner. After all, it has all the functions of WhatsApp and at the same time a significant privacy bonus. So if you are interested in this topic and like everything you can already do on WhatsApp, Signal is an ideal app for you. Of course you have to too convince the rest of your contacts to switch to it.

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