Signal says it will start to phase out SMS and MMS message support from its Android app to streamline the user experience and prioritize security and privacy.
While this announcement may surprise those who don’t know Signal can also be used to manage this type of text message, the Signal for Android app could be configured as the default SMS/MMS app since its beginning as TextSecure, an app that used the Axolotl Ratchet protocol.
“We have now reached the point where SMS support no longer makes sense. In order to enable a more streamlined Signal experience, we are starting to phase out SMS support from the Android app,” the company said in a blog post published today.
“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 change will only affect Android users who set up Signal as their default SMS app. Signal will start notifying them to export their SMS messages and switch to a new default app to manage their SMS messages.
When Signal is used as the unified Android messaging app, both Signal and non-Signal contacts are displayed in the contact list, with Signal ones marked with a blue letter.
This move was mainly prompted by plain text SMS messages being insecure since they can be intercepted using various methods and allow mobile carriers worldwide to access message metadata.
Additionally, the company said that having unencrypted SMS messages right next to secure Signal messages in the same interface could easily lead to confusion even though they’re each tagged as such.
“It’s primarily just the US and parts of Europe that have affordable/unlimited SMS plans. For the most part, the global south is hungry for overlay services that they can use instead of SMS, precisely because SMS is so expensive in those places,” Signal said.
Last but not least, a third reason given by Signal for this move is that they can lead to expensive phone bills when mistakenly sending SMS messages instead of Signal messages due to high fees in some parts of the world.
“We understand that this change will be frustrating for those of you who use Signal on Android for SMS messaging in addition to sending Signal messages. It rarely feels good to have to switch up the ways that you communicate with the people who matter to you,” Signal added.
“We did not make this choice lightly, but we do believe it is necessary to ensure that Signal meets the highest privacy standards for the future.”