I’m moving my friends and family who use Android phones away from SMS/MMS, Facebook Messenger, and Voxer. We’ll be using Threema to send messages, photos, and videos instead.
For my friends and family who communicate with me using iOS messenger, I’m not asking them to change anything. It’s very user-friendly, but the security and privacy are still strong enough for normal conversations.
I started using apps instead of SMS/MMS after it became a headache because it doesn’t always work well between iOS and Android. Plus it over-compresses media, and it is not secure.
Facebook should be avoided as much as possible, so I wanted to find an easy app to use for my friends and family who have been using Messenger to communicate with me.
I considered running my own element server, but haven’t had the time to learn all about doing it right.
I looked at some of the top alternative messaging apps such as Whatsapp,Telegram, and Signal, but ruled them out for various reasons. Whatsapp was acquired by Facebook at some point, so it’s out. Telegram and Signal make you use your phone number and upload your contacts in order to use their apps, and I have no plans of doing either.
Although Voxer is free and convenient, it has more and more things that annoy me. Voxer isn’t a major player in the messaging app world, but it was what a couple of friends were already using, so I met them where they were.
The most in-your-face problem with Voxer is that it (almost) always has notifications that cannot be cleared, so there’s is always a red 1 in the corner of the icon. Also it’s annoying there is still no dark mode as of November 2020. And it’s a bummer that older messages disappear unless you pay for a Pro subscription. It’s nice they offer a paid version, but being able to read old messages shouldn’t be one of the perks. It is nice that you can use Voxer in an app or on a desktop web browser, but that’s not enough to keep me as a user.
So what’s so great about Threema. The Secure Messenger anyway?
Threema is an accessible way for anyone to start using end-to-end encryption to send messages to friends and family. You may have nothing to hide, but that’s no reason to let strangers listen in on your private conversations.
A couple nice-to-have features are dark mode and custom alert tones, so it can match or be different from your phone’s message alert.
It’s not a feature, but I appreciate that Threema is a paid app. You pay up front, so there’s no nagging to upgrade to a paid version. Since they have a revenue stream, it increases my confidence that the app will continue to be developed and improved. Also, I don’t have to worry whether I am the product since I’m a paying customer.
After my concerns with Telegram and Signal, I was relieved to find that not only do I not need to hand over contacts or telephone number, but you can have a completely anonymous account with Threema. The app provides a way to backup your account securely and privately, and you can easily nuke your account if you decide to.
When I set up my account, and when I help set the app up for my friends and family, I will start them off with the most private option. The downside is if they don’t backup their account, and something happens to their device, they’ll have to create a new one. That part is easy, but you have to scan the QR code of all your contacts if you want to be 100% certain it’s them when adding them to Threema. This prevents a man-in-the-middle attack.
I decided on security/privacy over convenience because it’s easier to loosen the security/privacy later if convenience outweighs the (minimal) risks than it is to try to undo the less-secure options.
If you decide you want a little more convenience, you can create an account tied to an email address to easily move your account from one phone to another by just logging in. You can also sync your contacts if you want to, so you can start messaging other Threema users who have done the same. But both options are totally optional.
Threema is available in the iOS App Store, the Google Play app store, or directly from Threema’s website: