Signal vs WhatsApp: Group calls improve for privacy-minded users

The latest Signal version makes it much easier to know who's speaking in group calls. — dpa

Signal, the messenger app known for its focus on protecting user data, is stepping up its game in group audio calls for users considering leaving WhatsApp.

Until now, the notorious problems of video chats on Zoom have also applied to audio calls on messenger apps except that Signal wasn’t so good at letting you know who you were listening to.

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This led to the familiar situations where users wondered: “Who’s making that noise? Has someone left their microphone unmuted?”

To improve the experience on large calls, Signal has now introduced a new feature designed to let you know who is talking on a group audio-only calls: so-called audio indicators, basically a few dots that become animated in a wave-like manner when someone is speaking.

This way you’ll always be able to see who’s speaking (or making annoying noises) during group calls. It’s also likely to be useful if you’re on a call with people you don’t know, as everyone will be able to see the name of the person speaking.

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For the time being, however, the feature is only available on Android devices (from version 5.36.3).

The new feature comes after Signal expanded the maximum number of users that can take part in an end-to-end group call to 40, making the app more useful for privacy-minded groups of employees, relatives and friends. WhatsApp limits you to eight participants per call.

Beyond calls, Signal allows up to 1,000 users to be in one group chat, while WhatsApp’s groups are currently limited to 256 users.

ALSO READ: WhatsApp unveils communities feature to organise group chats

Although WhatsApp is still in the lead for widespread usage worldwide with more than two billion users, Signal’s popularity has climbed as its reputation for data protection grows, notably after a backlash from a new WhatsApp privacy policy announced in 2021.

Signal is now also adding the latest in emojis (version 14), meaning users can soon expect to see more disco balls, heart hands and too-scared-to-watch emojis.

However, iPhone users are not completely left entirely empty-handed. In the latest iOS version of Signal (5.36.1), there’s a new feature that lets you see the length of a video before sending it. – dpa

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