Signal has announced plans to remove SMS messaging from its Android app in a move that’s sure to disappoint users.
Signal is one of the most popular secure messaging apps, competing with iMessage and WhatsApp while offering better security and privacy than either. On Android, the app can also handle traditional SMS and MMS messaging for communicating with users who aren’t on Signal. While SMS and MMS messages don’t offer the same level of security, it’s still a convenient way to keep all messaging in a single app.
Unfortunately, Signal plans to remove SMS and MMS support, narrowing its focus to encrypted messaging. The company explained its decision in a blog post:
In order to enable a more streamlined Signal experience, we are starting to phase out SMS support from the Android app. You will have several months to transition away from SMS in Signal, to export your SMS messages to another app, and to let the people you talk to know that they might want to switch to Signal, or find another channel if not.
The company says users will need to export their SMS messages and select a new client to handle non-Signal messages. A future version of the app, one currently in beta, will provide the built-in export functionality:
If you do use Signal as your default SMS app on Android, you will need to select a new default SMS app on your phone. If you want to keep them, you’ll also need to export your SMS messages from Signal into that new app.
Signal says the reason for the change was primarily over security concerns and to free up resources to focus on core features:
The most important reason for us to remove SMS support from Android is that plaintext SMS messages are inherently insecure. They leak sensitive metadata and place your data in the hands of telecommunications companies. With privacy and security at the heart of what we do, letting a deeply insecure messaging protocol have a place in the Signal interface is inconsistent with our values and with what people expect when they open Signal.
We are focused on building secure, intuitive, reliable, and pleasant ways to connect with each other without surveillance, tracking, or targeting. Dropping support for SMS messaging also frees up our capacity to build new features (yes, like usernames) that will ensure Signal is fresh and relevant into the future. After much discussion, we determined that we can no longer continue to invest in accommodating SMS in the Android app while also dedicating the resources we need to make Signal the best messenger out there.