Just this morning, I posted on a new feature upgrade for Telegram, and one of our readers asked the question: Why do you guys recommend Telegram? What makes it better than WhatsApp?
What a great question! Before we look at that, I want to give you some background. Ausdroid’s internal communications were (historically) by email, and that really didn’t work so well. It didn’t foster real-time conversation, it made it hard to converse, and got in the way more than it helped. We tried Google Hangouts but quickly reached limitations; it was slow, cross-platform sync was inconsistent, and we couldn’t integrate with it — there’s no API.
When we eventually gave up on Hangouts, we switched to Telegram. There’s a lot of reasons for this, and as you’ll see in the comparison below, they’re pretty obvious — not only is Telegram better than WhatsApp, but it’s better than a lot of the options on the market which would allow us to do the same thing.
Telegram is free and open-source. No ads, no payments. Nothing.
Telegram is easy to use; sign up using your phone number as your primary identifier, and you can communicate with anyone else in your contacts list who is also a Telegram user. In this regard, it’s very similar to WhatsApp. You can, however, specify a username as well — this allows people who are NOT in your contacts to contact you, without knowing your mobile number, and without it being disclosed to them.
As far as general user interface goes, Telegram is fairly similar to WhatsApp; sending messages is easy, managing contacts the same, and the conversation view with Emoji/stickers is basically the same between both. In fact, the user interface is broadly the same; someone familiar with WhatsApp can use Telegram easily enough.
As of around the middle of 2015, the user base for Telegram was at around 50 million.
Security is a big selling point, and we do mean big. Not only is Telegram open-source, but it also uses MTProto with 256-bit symmetric AES encryption, RSA 2048 encryption and DH secure key exchange. With these features in mind, Telegram is pretty damned secure, and the makers are so confident of this they’re offering a $200,000 bounty to anyone who can break into Telegram communications.
Telegram is cross-platform. It works on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and Chrome, and via any web browser. Better yet, you can be logged in to an unlimited number of devices at the same time, and messages fly between them all, seamlessly. It’s fantastic. Being able to access your Telegram account from your phone, desktop computer and a tablet at the same time is great, and was a key factor for us.
Telegram is fast. Damned fast. Telegram rarely has outages, message delivery is very quick, and cross-platform sync is so fast as to be almost unbelievable.
File-sharing is powerful too; Telegram doesn’t restrict file-size or type, unlike Hangouts which makes it difficult to send anything beyond pictures.
Telegram’s group chats are very powerful; you can have groups with 200 members, and broadcasts to an unlimited number.
Telegram has a sophisticated API that allows bots to integrate with the service; Slack has this too, but Hangouts and WhatsApp don’t.
WhatsApp isn’t free. You do get a year’s free service, but after that, you’re basically expected to pay to use it.
WhatsApp is about as easy as Telegram to sign up to; your mobile number is key, and you can chat to anyone else who’s number you have. WhatsApp does have a mechanism for allowing users to chat without exchanging phone numbers but it’s not as seamless as Telegram’s URL-based process.
As of around the middle of 2015, the user base for WhatsApp was over 700 million. It dwarfs Telegram’s user base.
WhatsApp security is largely unknown, because its source is closed. Equally, there have been security breaches in the past which don’t fill us with confidence.
WhatsApp is kind of cross-platform. It works on Android and iOS, and there is more recently a web interface as well. However, you can’t be signed in on more than one device at a time (e.g. a tablet and a phone), and WhatsApp actively discourage users from switching between devices too often, by blocking their accounts. Telegram don’t care how many devices you use at once, and their web interface is much easier and quicker to use, and doesn’t involve using a QR code like WhatsApp does.
WhatsApp is fairly quick, but not always, and not reliably. In our testing, there is a measurable difference in speed between Telegram delivery and WhatsApp’s.
WhatsApp can share files, but it’s limited; only certain file types are allowed, and there’s a 16MB file size limit. Telegram doesn’t have any of these limits.
WhatsApp’s group chats are limited to 30 users. Doesn’t really affect us (our main group chat has 10 users), but still.
WhatsApp doesn’t have an API to speak of. We couldn’t integrate with it, unlike Telegram where we’ve built a sophisticated ‘Ausdroid Bot’ which does a lot for us to help manage the site.
The conclusion is simple. For us, Telegram was a no brainer; easier cross-platform and multiple device sync, greater security options, and an API we could integrate with. For the end-user, this stuff might not matter as much, but certainly it did for us.
There are other options which can offer what Telegram does, albeit slightly differently. Atlassian’s HipChat is quite powerful, as is Slack, but we’ve tried both and they didn’t work for us as nicely as Telegram did. HipChat just wasn’t quite as reliable for us, and Slack — while functional enough — wasn’t as quick as Telegram. Equally, both those solutions aren’t exactly free, whereas Telegram is entirely so.
That’s why we chose Telegram. Have you chosen it too? Let us know what decided it for you!