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If you’ve been relying on the Signal messaging app on Android for SMS communications, your access to the plaintext messaging feature in the app will end soon.

In a bid to prioritize security and privacy, Signal has announced that it will soon phase out SMS and MMS messaging support on Android. The cross-platform centralized encrypted instant messaging platform, which merged its RedPhone encrypted voice calling app and the TextSecure encrypted texting protocol in 2014 to release Signal, has been supporting instant SMS messages on Android for over five years.

However, Signal now thinks it has reached the point where SMS support for Android users will be expunged to allow them to focus on security and privacy offerings on the Signal platform.

“We are focused on building secure, intuitive, reliable and pleasant ways to connect with each other without surveillance, tracking or targeting,” said Signal in a blog post. “Dropping support for SMS messaging also frees up our capacity to build new features (yes, like usernames) that will ensure Signal is fresh and relevant into the future.

“After much discussion, we determined that we can no longer continue to invest in accommodating SMS in the Android app while also dedicating the resources we need to make Signal the best messenger out there.

SEE: Mobile device security policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Following the announcement, users now have several months to move away from the SMS feature in Signal and export their SMS messages to another app or the default Android messaging App.

What this new change means to Signal users on Android

Signal explained that this new change would only affect Android users who use Signal as their default SMS application. By this, they mean that users can only be affected if Signal is their medium of receiving and sending SMS messages. For this class of users, the company advised that they would need to use other apps for their SMS communication and would make provisions to allow them to export their SMS to other platforms.

Since Signal made this announcement, its Twitter page has been flooded with mixed reactions from users. While some users see the move as bad for Signal, others welcome the announcement since the move affected only SMS communication. Nevertheless, Signal hopes that its over 40 million users will come to understand and adapt to the new changes this has brought.

“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 explained. “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.”

Why Signal is pulling off from the SMS support for Android

According to Signal, three main reasons prompted the removal of SMS support from the Signal app in Android. One of the reasons is that plain text messaging has increasingly become insecure, as they are easily intercepted using different methods, giving away access to metadata. Signal also argues that since SMS messages are insecure, it has become easy for telecommunications companies to invade people’s privacy.

“With privacy and security at the heart of what we do, letting a deeply insecure messaging protocol have a place in the Signal interface is inconsistent with our values and with what people expect when they open Signal,” the company explained.

The second reason is that the cost of data for instant messaging has become very affordable, unlike in the past when quite a few people could afford data. At the same time, SMS charges are now high in various parts of the world. This, according to Signal, has led to more SMS costs on the part of the users. Hence, there was no need to continue supporting SMS communication when users could easily access data and use it for more secure instant messaging.

The third reason is that Signal felt that having SMS messages alongside other instant messaging features in the Signal interface does no good for user experience. Signal argued that some users often misconstrued SMS messages sent or received via the Signal interface as secure and private when they were not. Therefore, to put a stop to this confusion, removing the SMS feature was the best move.

Following this announcement, one might wonder what alternatives Signal users have. Currently, Telegram and WhatsApp offer encrypted instant messaging. However, Signal users may find it difficult to turn to these secure messaging platforms, as they do not offer plaintext SMS communications and rely on data. Although other names such as TextNow, Microsoft’s GroupMe and Viber have competed with Signal in providing support for SMS messaging on Android devices, users may have concerns over the ability of these alternatives to provide maximum security and privacy.

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