Signal users on Android will lose one of the encrypted messaging app’s major features

It ‘no longer makes sense’ for Signal to support SMS text messages, the company says

Signal, the encrypted messaging app, is losing one of its key features on Android.

In a new blog post, the company said that it would be removing support for text messages, otherwise known as SMS

“We continued supporting the sending and receiving of plaintext SMS messages via the Signal interface on Android … because we knew that Signal would be easier for people to use if it could serve as a homebase for most of the messages they were sending or receiving, without having to convince the people they wanted to talk to to switch to Signal first”, Nina Berman, a writer for the messaging app, wrote.

“But this came with a tradeoff: it meant that some messages sent and received via the Signal interface on Android were not protected by Signal’s strong privacy guarantees.”

Signal now claims that it “no longer makes sense” to support SMS because plaintext messages are insecure, and in some parts of the world companies put a high cost on sending SMS messages.

“We’ve heard repeatedly from people who’ve been hit with high messaging fees after assuming that the SMS messages they were sending were Signal messages, only to find out that they were using SMS, and being charged by their telecom provider. This is a terrible experience with real consequences”, Signal says.

The company also adds that supporting both Signal messages and SMS messages is a poor user experience, and it is “important that people don’t mistake SMS messages sent or received via the Signal interface”.

While Signal can currently be set as the default SMS sender on Android, it now means users will have to split messages between the default on Android – likely Google’s own Messages app – and Signal, the way that users do with WhatsApp. On iPhones, SMS messages are handled by the same app that sends Apple Messages, which are also encrypted.

The app gained popularity after a Facebook outage in October 2021. The social media giant experienced a six-hour crash caused by configuration changes to its routers.

Signal tweeted that its signups were “on the way up”. After seven hours, it said millions had joined the platform.  “Signal is WhatsUp”, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey tweeted.

On Reddit, many Android users expressed sadness at the announcement. “Signal is primarily my SMS client. I use it for Signal, but for the few SMSs I receive, I do so via Signal. It’s because it’s my SMS client that I use it so much”, one user wrote, “this just kills it completely. I’m actually gutted.”

Another said that the SMS functionality allowed them to “install the app on a non technical [sic] user’s phone and they would get the benefits of Signal opportunistically. Now they’ll just go back to plain SMS.”

Others posited that the company could make the difference between SMS and Signal messages more visible and were concerned that the app would now lose a competitive element in comparison to other platforms like WhatsApp.

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