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Skype has never been the most safe or secure communication protocol, and after Microsoft took over in 2011, concerns over privacy began to pile up. Though Skype on mobile is easy to use, if you’re looking for a more secure app, you’ll want an open source alternative with encryption.
Plenty of desktop video chat alternatives already exist and alternative VoIP services aren’t that hard to find either, but pickings are slim when it comes to the mobile arena. Choosing the right messaging app will depend on what kind of communication you need.
Skype itself covers text chat, video chat, and VoIP. Finding a secure and open source alternative that does all three won’t be easy (though not impossible), but there are some good ones available if you only need one or two of them.
Platforms: Android, iOS (also Windows, Mac, Linux)
As far as apps that claim “I can do everything Skype can do”, Tox is one of the closest to fulfilling that promise. This app has the big three forms — text chat, video chat, and VoIP calls — and a great interface that beats out Skype in some ways.
Tox’s entire existence is in response to recent events that show just how interested the government is in knowing what we say online. Tox’s only agenda is to prioritize privacy for its users and promises to never compromise that mission. Maybe that will change in the future, but up until now, they’ve been faithful.
All of Tox’s communications are 100% free and strongly encrypted. There are no pestering ads nor are there any paid perks. What you see is what you get, and its open source license even allows you to modify Tox to your liking.
Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows Phone (also Windows, Mac, Linux)
Encrypted VoIP apps are the rarest of the three communication forms, which is why it’s great to have Linphone in the mix. It has wide availability across platforms, a neat interface that doesn’t get in the way, and proper security to keep your mind at ease.
Linphone supports audio and video calls on top of its text chatting. It can handle multiple calls (with pause, resume, and transfer) and it can merge multiple calls into a conference when necessary. The interface adapts to whether you’re on a smartphone or a tablet.
If you don’t like Tox for some reason, or even if you do like Tox, you should really give Linphone a try. It’s a strong contender to Skype with its complete feature set and encryption protocols.
Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows Phone (also Windows, Mac, Linux, Web)
Telegram is another strong alternative to Skype, and like the above apps, Telegram is completely free to use, has no ads, and no paid perks. The downside is that Telegram specializes in text chat and file sending. VoIP calls may be implemented in the future, but no guarantee on that yet.
Communication is between you and your Telegram contacts only and all messages are encrypted. For extra security, you can set certain messages to self-destruct after a given time. Sent files can be of any type, and media can be stored on Telegram’s cloud if needed.
Which brings us to the peculiar aspect of Telegram: it’s cloud-based. The service has several servers scattered around the world and these servers make it quick to deliver messages and keep devices in sync (if you’re using Telegram on multiple devices, that is).
Despite encrypted messaging, Telegram may give you pause given the potential risks of cloud storage. As far as privacy, only use Telegram if you trust them to keep your data and information secure.
Platforms: Android, iOS
Surespot markets itself as an encrypted messenger, and it’s quite good at that — but it’s not a full Skype replacement, so whether you end up switching to it or not will depend on what you were using Skype for.
Surespot can send one-off end-to-end messages in the form of text, image, or voice, and these messages are encrypted using a powerful algorithm (256-bit AES-GCM with 521-bit ECDH keys, if you’re curious about the technical aspect). Practically speaking, that means nobody but the intended recipient can decrypt or read your messages.
The lack of video chat and VoIP calls means that Surespot isn’t a forerunner in the race to replace Skype, but if you were only using Skype as an instant messenger anyway, Surespot would actually work quite well for you. It’s 100% free and has no ads.
Platforms: Android, iOS
ChatSecure is a secure and open source app that surpasses most other mobile messaging apps when it comes to privacy.
It uses XMPP (formerly known as Jabber) but messages are made secure using Off-the-Record encryption. As such, you can use it to chat with anyone using a chat app built on XMPP, including Google Talk, Facebook Chat, Dukgo, and more.
ChatSecure is free, unlimited, and has no ads.
Created by Open Whisper Systems, RedPhone is an Android-only app that facilitates encrypted phone calls using your actual phone number, but these calls are made over Wi-Fi (or data if Wi-Fi isn’t available) so your plan’s minutes aren’t affected.
Calls made with RedPhone are completely free to make, even if those calls are international or long distance. The caveat, however, is that calls can only be secure if both users are using RedPhone. This app has no ads or paid perks.
If you like RedPhone but want encrypted text messages as well, you can install TextSecure, a sister app from the same developer. In similar fashion, TextSecure uses your phone number to facilitate encrypted text, image, and video messages.
What’s Your Preferred Skype Alternative?
If you want a full replacement for Skype, your best bet is to go with Tox or Linphone. Both are great choices for an all-in-one solution. Telegram is great too if you’re willing to forego VoIP calls and video chat, and if the cloud-based nature of it doesn’t bother you.
Which one will you go with? Are there any other encrypted Skype alternatives that I missed? Or will you just stick with Skype anyway? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!