Signal is winding down plaintext SMS support in its Android app
is removing the option to send and receive SMS messages in its Android app. Folks who currently use Signal as their default SMS app will receive alerts advising them to switch to a different one. You’ll be able to export your SMS messages and import them into another app (as long as the other one supports that option).
The change won’t happen overnight. “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,”
Signal said it included SMS support in the first place to make it easier to use — you wouldn’t have to convince friends to start using Signal before exchanging messages with them from the app. While the move may be inconvenient for those who have been using Signal for the bulk of their messaging, the company spelled out some practical reasons for the change.
For one thing, SMS messages don’t have end-to-end encryption. Also, given the shifting prices of data and text plans over the years, it may actually be more expensive to send an SMS message than a Signal one these days. “We’ve heard repeatedly from people who’ve been hit with high messaging fees after assuming that the SMS messages they were sending were Signal messages, only to find out that they were using SMS, and being charged by their telecom provider,” Signal’s blog post reads. “This is a terrible experience with real consequences.”
The third reason Signal gave is that it wants to avoid folks getting confused between SMS and Signal messages in the app. It said that making these distinct has “serious UX and design implications.” Furthermore, Signal said dropping SMS support will free up resources to work on other projects and features.
It made the decision following at its verification partner Twillio. Signal said the incident exposed around 1,900 of its users’ phone numbers and SMS codes. It’s unclear whether the call to end SMS support is directly connected to the breach.
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