(Editor's note: This article was updated on Dec. 13, 2016 with new information about availability, registration, and encryption.)
Wire is an open source messaging service that offers fully encrypted messages, phone calls, and video chats (with a slight caveat — more on that later). With it you can also send pictures and doodles to your contacts to make this app a well-rounded contender for your messaging needs. Even with the ability to send messages and images, engage in calls and videos, there are two particular features that make Wire especially interesting for business users. Wire has also added more business-centric features, such as screen and file sharing.
Wire is available for Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS, and Linux (Beta), and can be used on nearly any web browser with the web app. You can even download the Wire source from Github, to develop your own Wire service client.
I'll demonstrate these two features for you on the Android platform.
Before we glance at these features, let's first install Wire on Android. Here are the steps:
- Open up the Google Play Store on your Android device
- Search for Wire
- Locate and tap the entry by Wire Swiss GmbH
- Tap Install
- If prompted, tap Accept
- Allow the installation to complete
Once installed tap the app launcher (found in either your App Drawer or your home screen) and Wire will open and request that you either enter your device phone number or register with an email address (Figure A).
After you type your phone number, tap the right-pointing arrow (or the Done button) and Wire will automatically send a verification code to the number (via text message). Enter that number when prompted and tap the Done button. Once the code authenticates (this happens very quickly), you're ready to start using Wire.
When you first open Wire, it will present to you all of your contacts, each of which will have an associated INVITE button. That's right, in order for you to communicate with contacts, they must also be using Wire. When you find a contact you want to work with, tap the INVITE button (Figure B) and await for that user to install Wire and connect with you.
At this point you can initiate calls (both audio and video) and send messages.
But what about those two magical features? I've put off talking about them long enough. Here they are.
The first feature is the ability to ping your contacts. I find this to be incredibly handy to get the attention of contacts, especially when you have something important you must communicate. From the main screen, tap the contact you want to work with and then, from the contact window (Figure C), tap the button directly to the right of GIF.
When you ping a contact, what will happen on their device will depend on whether or not they have Wire open. If Wire is open, a charming "pinging" sound will occur and an animation will play next to your contact name. If wire is not open, a message will appear in the notification shade (Figure D), wherein the contact can then reply to the ping with either a call or a message (both of which will open in the Wire app).
The second feature that business users will greatly appreciate is the timed messages. This isn't really anything new, but Wire does a spectacular job with the feature. Here's what you do:
- Open the contact you want to work with
- Tap the hourglass directly to the right of the TYPE A MESSAGE area
- Swipe up or down to select how long you want the message to exist (Figure E)
- Back at the main contact screen, type out your message
- Tap the send button
Once the contact receives the message, a timer will count down (next to the received message) to indicate how long the contact has to respond to said message. If they do not respond before the message is gone, that's it, there is no retrieving the message in question.
That darned caveat
When Wire launched, it claimed full-blown end-to-end encryption for all of its features. The truth was, however, that encryption really only applied to voice calls. As of March 2016, however, video calls and messaging are now protected under the same end-to-end encryption as are the audio calls. And although messages do pass through the Wire servers, Wire does not have access to the encryption keys, so they cannot decrypt the messages. So although the caveat was once a hurdle for security purists, it is now no longer part of the equation.
A sound solution for business communication
Thanks to the two features, ping and timed messages, Wire makes for a sound mobile business communication solution. Have your field workers and administrators use Wire and you can rest assured that they will be able to more reliably communicate with one another and keep sensitive data away from prying eyes.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.