Threema vs WhatsApp: Who Really Owns Your Privacy? Our Shocking Findings!

The instant messaging application Threema is paid, but, in exchange, users are sure that no data is commercialized.  

Some free instant messaging apps generate revenue from user data. Even though these platforms report that their chats are encrypted and that no one can access them, there is other information that may be relevant with which companies can market.

As Cristian León, program director of Asuntos del Sur, an innovation and policy organization based in Argentina, pointed out to BBC Mundo, the data they could sell ranged from telephone numbers and geolocation to times and hours of use.  There are alternatives to these applications, such as Telegram, where they claim that the project has been financed by Pavel Durov during most of his history or through sponsored messages or a premium subscription. However, there was already another instant messaging app that has been offering the same thing we are used to for years without ads or selling data, although paying: Threema.

In recent weeks, we have been using the Threema app to communicate, which costs 4.99 euros in the Play Store and 5.99 euros in the App Store. The reason the platform costs money is that it makes sure the data is kept out of the hands of hackers, companies, and the government and can be used completely anonymously. Those users who install it on their devices have the certainty that none of their data is traded as currency for using their services.

One of the main things to keep in mind before making the switch to this instant messaging app is that you have to pay to use it. Therefore, you can only chat through Threema with those contacts who have contracted the service. 

That is why, we think that it is advisable to install the application knowing that your friends or family already use it or to make the change together with those people with whom you chat the most. There are also business options, such as Threema Work or Threema OnPrem, to maintain the privacy that some jobs need to carry out their operations without having to be careful.

What does Threema look like from the inside?

Those who are considering making the leap to Threema and leaving other instant messaging services that are usually more common should know that the interface inside is quite easy to use. The functions that it has are similar to those of its alternatives and, in addition, little by little they are releasing updates that allow users not to miss using the other applications. The most noteworthy are:

The chats are intuitive: what we send is seen in a green speech bubble and what we receive in a gray speech bubble, something we are already used to. Message views are reported with an eye icon. In addition, you can send images, videos, locations, surveys, contacts, etc.

Easy access functions: there is the possibility to create groups, archive messages, connect to the web version and make distribution lists, which could be compared to Telegram Channels or WhatsApp Communities.

Profile customization options: each user has an identification code with which other Internet users can find them. This can be changed for potential filtration issues. You can also modify the name that is shown to other Internet users and change the image and choose who can see it.

An easy configuration to handle: Threema’s options in its settings are not very different from those of its competitors. It allows you to manage the multimedia elements sent and received, the calls, the notifications, and some elements of the appearance of the chat interface, for example.

What’s new in Threema 5.0 on iOS

Threema recently released an update for its iOS users:

  • The title bar is now always visible and displays the contact’s name, profile picture, verification level, and a call button. For group chats, the title bar contains the name, group photo, and group members. 
  • Voice messages can be played directly in the chat. If there is another voice message next, it is automatically played after the first one. 
  • By tapping on the playback time of a voice message, the user can toggle between the elapsed time and the remaining time.
  • When the user scrolls up in the history of a chat, the messages are automatically loaded, so there is no need to go through the ‘Load previous messages’ option anymore.
  • The timestamp and status of a message are now displayed inside the bubble. If there are multiple messages matching at the same time, the corresponding bubbles are grouped.
  • Files can now be accessed even as they are being transmitted.
  • Simply slide your finger to the left to access the message’s specifics.
  • Member names appear in different colors in group messages.
  • By clicking on the camera icon next to the text input field, you can take a picture and email it straight away.
  • The text formatting is immediately reflected in the text input area.

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The most recent Threema Work update

As we’ve already indicated, the Threema developers are gradually implementing changes to make the user experience as similar as possible to that of other platforms of such kind while always keeping security in mind. They recently added a new feature to their professional edition as a result of this.

With the most recent upgrade, users may make calls and video calls in groups of up to 16 individuals while using end-to-end encryption. As the company stated following the introduction of this feature, iOS users would also soon be able to use it.

More than ten years of securely connecting users

Threema celebrated its tenth anniversary in December 2022 since the release of the first version for iOS. As they told in a video, the project began with three young software developers at a kitchen table in Switzerland and has become a consolidated company with more than 11 million users who are committed to complete privacy. 

The initial idea was to create a standalone messaging app that would avoid systematic data collection and they resorted to end-to-end encryption. Its first name was EEEMA, which stood for ‘End-to-End Encrypted Messaging Application’, but they soon changed the three Es to ‘Three’, renamed Threema.

In 2013, there were several issues that put the spotlight on how apps safeguarded users’ privacy. Among the news items that stood out were the Snowden revelations that revealed the scale of the PRISM surveillance program and the wiretapping of Angela Merkel, who was the German Chancellor at the time.

When Facebook (now Meta) acquired WhatsApp in 2014, Threema experienced growth of up to 2 million users in a few weeks. Over the years, the number has been increasing, especially among those concerned about their security and privacy online.

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