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Telegram in, WhatsApp out?

WhatsApp has been facing a lot of heat since it rolled out its latest Privacy Policy updates. The Facebook-owned company has been backlashed by plenty of its users over privacy concerns, requiring it’s users to now agree to let Facebook and its subsidiaries collect user data. People are looking for alternatives and Telegram is certainly proving to be the flavour of the month! In fact, it’s now become the most downloaded non-gaming app worldwide in January 2021, with over 5 million monthly users. The app was founded in Russia back in 2013, by the Durov brothers and its headquarters can now be found in Dubai. Controversy surrounded the app’s ban in Russia, due to the brothers refusing to hand over its encryption keys to the Russian government - a true testament that privacy is at the forefront of what they do and this is a drawcard for many. Telegram was designed for both personal and business use. It does the basics well, but also comes with a giant list of other add-ons that allow users to customise and up their chat game with some very interesting features. It’s fast, easy-to-use, and has unlimited cloud-based storage that allows you to share much larger files, limitlessly. Also, Telegram offers secret chats where users can privately exchange self-destructing messages. Group chats on the platform can offer support to up to 200,000 members, with the added bonus of being able to incorporate bots, polls, quizzes and hashtags. In terms of security, it must be noted that there is only end-to-end encryption in their secret chats.

Here’s a better understanding of the platform’s functionality compared to that of WhatsApp:


When signing-up, you still need to input your cell number (verified via a one-time pin just like WhatsApp or Signal), but you aren’t needing to hand over your cellphone number. What this means is you can communicate with anyone on Telegram even if you don't have the contact number of others, if you’re simply wanting to chat to chat to someone, you can just give them your username (keeping your phone number private).


You are still able to share your live location, drop a pin, send voice notes, do video recordings but an added plus is the Folders feature, allowing you to easily categorise your chats. Given how crazy our lives have become, being able to organise your chats into work / friends / family / help compartmentalise your life a little. A game-changer is being able to send files up to 2GB in size, which isn’t not possible on WhatsApp. You can even play a video before the download has finished.


A Telegram group can afford a maximum of 200,000 members whereas with WhatsApp, 256 is the maximum member capacity in a group. You’re also able to mute all groups by default, a feature that WhatsApp doesn’t have. Over and above one-on-one chats and group chats, are Telegram ‘Channels’ which are similar to Twitter and Reddit. The creator of the channel can decide who can post and other members can view the posts. Pavel Darov himself uses a Channel to communicate the latest updates on the app and even throws in some contentious statements around Facebook, making for some interesting reads. Channels operate with a permanent URL and people can join any time. The platform’s Group chats are a lot more interactive, allowing for the use of hashtags and polls which you aren’t able to do in WhatsApp.


End-to-end encryption is only in the Group chats, but there is two-step authentication (2FA) as well as an added layer of security in the form of touch ID. In order to add fingerprint lock in Telegram, you simply need to set a passcode lock first.


You can link multiple devices to a single Telegram account, for e.g. Business and Personal phones, so you don’t need to have multiple usernames. Because Telegram stores all your messages and content in its cloud, you can access everything from anywhere, using all your different devices. This super cool feature means your sessions can be remembered on browsers too.


There is the equivalent of WhatsApp web, with a desktop browser for chatting, and everything backed up.


The app introduces ‘Destruction messages’ where you can create a secret chat, select the clock icon and choose your desired time/duration for as long as you want the message to be seen. The messages will be automatically deleted when the timer hits and it’s not able to hack in any way. Similar to the popularity of Snapchat, there’s hype around communicating just in the moment.


The Draft Functionality is super helpful - we’re all guilty of finding ourselves reading messages, half-typing a response, only for something else to grab your attention and you end up forgetting to reply. This feature allows you to pick up where you left off, mid-reply and synced to all your devices so you can send it from any other when you’re ready.


Currently, WhatsApp only allows you to delete a sent message but with Telegram you’re able to delete messages without the other person knowing, as well as being able to edit them. You’ve got up to 2 days to edit messages after they were sent however there is a stamp that does let the recipient it’s been edited.


Telegram has a Silent Message Function, where you can choose to not disrupt the recipient - super convenient and considerate if you know that person is in a meeting!


With Forwarded Messages in Telegram, these can be sent on without you even downloading them. You as the receiver can also check the original source of the message; the name, and a link to his/her account is shown. But if you are concerned about your privacy, you can change this.


This feature is major! You’re able to Schedule Messages - being able to set messages before you go to bed that will be sent out early the next morning means you get that extra lie in, and it also comes in handy with wanting to be the first to wish someone for their birthday.


Telegram offers five different chat colour themes (Dark, Day, Classic, Night and Artic). You’re able to change the colour of recipients messages, your messages, and your chat background, even changing the corners of the messages boxes. YOUTUBE There is an In-App YouTube Search functionality - being able to type@YouTube within the Telegram app for makes video sharing that much easier.


As a Telegram user, you’re able to create a Bio - this is fun especially for meeting new people or using the app for networking purposes, you can state your profession, age and location. Profile videos can replace profile pictures, which is so much cooler. When snapping Selfies within Telegram you can edit directly in the app: smooth your skin, add a drop shadow or tweak the contrast.


Telegram has over 20,000 Stickers built into the app. They are hilarious and better express what you’re feeling. There’s also the Masks feature which is interactive and added fun while you’re messaging. With all that said, Telegram does a pretty good job as a WhatsApp alternative. While it may not be the best in terms of security, with its chats not being protected by end-to-end encryption like on WhatsApp, it offers heaps of features, making it way more appealing than your average messenger. Telegram is available for download to South African users on Android, iOS, Mac, Windows and even through any browser, but old habits die hard so perhaps to ease your mind, remember that WhatsApp won’t read your chats and any of your private communications even if you consent to the new policy, however it will provide Facebook with more data it collects about you.

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