Telegram Messenger has increasingly become the best option for those looking for a fast and simple app to message their friends and family. Let’s take a look and see what makes it so compelling compared to the gazillion other messengers out there.
Background Info on Telegram Messenger
Telegram was first launched in August (iOS) and October (Android) of 2013. However, it is available for most platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, and web versions.
The developers were originally based in St. Petersburg, Russia, but have since moved their headquarters to Dubai citing IT hurdles in their native country. As of March 2018, the number of monthly users was 200 million with other sources I’ve seen saying it has surpassed 365 million users.
Why use Telegram Messenger?
Some of you are probably reading this thinking, “Why do I need yet ANOTHER messenger? Can’t I just use Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger?” Well, you can but you are sacrificing privacy. For example, the founder of WhatsApp left the company after disagreements with Facebook (parent company) over the weakening of encryption and usage of user data. In addition, Facebook is a company that is riddled with privacy issues.
Telegram strikes a good balance between privacy features and ease of use. It also has not bowed to pressure to open its encryption or make changes to its servers from foreign governments. It’s even implemented workarounds for users in countries where using it is banned.
Pros and Cons of Telegram Messenger
Okay, here are some of the things that Telegram does well and not so well in comparison to other communication apps out there.
Speed and performance
Telegram is very fast in its interface and the speed at which it sends messages is incredibly quick. I’ve also seen others comment on this once they’ve used it for a while. As someone that has used a lot of messaging apps (Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, LINE, KakaoTalk, Hangouts, etc.), Telegram is one of the speediest out there. I shouldn’t need a flagship smartphone to run a messenger app, so it’s great that Telegram is lightweight on anything it runs on.
Flexible Privacy Options
Many haters will point out that Telegram is not end-to-end encrypted by default, and that is true. However, Telegram uses its own homegrown encryption called MTProto 2.0 that works between users and its servers. There is the option to start “secret chats” which is end-to-end encryption between users. So why not do this by default like some other messengers? Flexibility.
Cloud Sync for everything
Imagine being able to switch to any device (phone, tablet, computer) and keep all your existing chats, logs, and files with you in the cloud. This is where Telegram shines because it’s all synced in the cloud which is ONLY possible with the current privacy setup. If you were to implement end-to-end encryption by default, cloud syncing would not be feasible. That’s why it’s troublesome or downright not possible to use your WhatsApp, LINE, and Viber accounts across an array of devices.
One of my favorite YouTube tech reviewers, Michael Fisher (AKA Mr. Mobile) even tweeted that he was leaving WhatsApp for Telegram because of the account being locked to a single device. Telegram doesn’t have this problem.
Groups and Super Groups
Telegram supports up to 200 members in a group, which is enough for most communities. If a group reaches the 200-person limit, there is an option to change it into a Super Group, bringing up the number limit to 100,000 which is mind boggling. Having said that, I believe some protest groups in Hong Kong currently use this feature, so that’s cool.
Similar to groups, Telegram has a feature called channels which you can join. For example, if you like cars and want to get the latest news about cars, you could join a channel related to that and get sent updates. There is also the option to download files and media, so there are countless channels out there for whatever you’re into. Here is a Telegram Channel list you can search through.
Did you know that Telegram has unlimited file storage? You can send files to friends, family, or even yourself and they will stay in the cloud until you want to download them. However, do note that there is a 1.5 GB size limit per file, but you can add/send as many files as you like. This is major compared to the tiny size limit in something like Discord (50 MB for free accounts) or something in Slack which counts against your total storage space.
This feature alone was the final push that convinced my friends and coworkers to abandon Google Hangouts and start using a group on Telegram.
Audio Calls, but no Video?
Telegram has support for end-to-end audio calls out of the box, which is excellent. However, it is still missing in my opinion, a major feature which is video calling. I know the developers have been working on this, but it looks like it’s still not happening for a while. Maybe we’ll be surprised in 2020 with it. In the meantime, I’ve had to resort to using Google Duo if I want to make video calls to friends and family.
Might be wrong on this, but I believe LINE/Kakao Talk were the first mainstream apps to implement sticker support which are just collections of customized character pictures matching various emotions. Anyway, this is super popular in Japan and probably other Asian countries.
Telegram has free stickers that get updated pretty frequently. Might not be a super useful feature for some people, but could be attractive to some users that prefer having the sticker feature in their communication app.
For me personally, I love being able to add different sticker sets and always keep adding new ones so things never get boring.
By default, Telegram uses a standard looking blue theme, but you can customize it with different colors and gradients. Also, much love to the developers for having dark mode support for those of us that like super black everything on their OLED screens.
Other small features
There are too many little features to list. However, some that I have personally used include a “scheduled send” feature. It’s just like it sounds, type your message and then hold over the send button to set a time for when the message gets sent. This is really useful for something like sending a message at lunch, wishing someone a happy birthday at midnight, etc.
The Telegram blog is a great resource for seeing what small changes and features have been implemented through updates. I highly recommend giving it a scroll through as they do a great job illustrating some of the features.
Final Thoughts on Telegram Messenger
If it wasn’t obvious by now, I really love Telegram and how fast and flexible it is. I can use it from all my devices and everything is cloud synced. Nothing else seems to have come close.
If you’re not using it, I recommend giving it a try. You’ll need to input your phone number at first, but after verification you can register a username which you can share with others.