The Case for Telegram Messenger: Why Don’t We Use It?


Last time the folks behind Telegram released their figures, which was at least two weeks ago, they were impressive. 62 million monthly active users sending up to 2 billion messages per day up from 50 million MAUs at the end of last year is something to be proud of. Telegram gained ground and wowed the likes of yours truly immediately after Facebook moved in to acquire rival Whatsapp. Whatsapp by comparison has a whopping 800 million MAUs. Staggering! And there are no indications of that momentum slowing down anytime soon. Which brings me to ask, why aren’t more and more people using Telegram? If you ask me, it is every bit better than Whatsapp.

Most of those who started using Telegram were of the opinion that Facebook was going to try and shove its shameless “we need to make money” in-your-face advertising on Whatsapp users. Plus Facebook and privacy are words hardly used in one sentence. People were fearful of their data being the preserve of Facebook as if whatever it mines from the social network itself and Instagram (in case it actually does) wasn’t enough.

Whatsapp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton promised to never sell your data, put ads in the application or follow through with any of such like annoyances in this passionately penned blogpost. That was before the Facebook buyout. While Whatsapp may be quick to dispel any such claims, it’s ok to have your worst fears.

Telegram has grown thanks to that and many other factors. Like the way the company has actively centrally placed itself as being more secure than its rivals. While I would want to take their word for it, security of your data online is more subjective than objective. You’re actually never safe and let no one lie to you. Just choose who you believe and entrust with your data carefully. The growth of Telegram is respectable on a global scale but I’m here to talk about my personal experience.

How many people do you know that use Telegram?

In my world, I have a handful of contacts that are on Telegram. I can count less than 10 that use it actively. The rest simply use it to respond to my messages since I insist on using it over alternative mediums. That’s my way of shoving things I like down my friend’s throats in case you’re wondering. I actually have that alert to notify me every time a person I have in my address book joins Telegram on. Yes, the situation is that bad. And yes, I actually glow with joy inside every time a friend starts using Telegram. I’ve used a couple of messaging applications over time and none has so captivated and changed the way I message than Telegram. Yet my friends aren’t using it. The people I know are all still stuck on Whatsapp! One (a weirdo) is a BBM diehard (I ditched BBM two months after it landed on Android. You may argue it is because I’ve never really been a Blackberry guy but messaging doesn’t have to be that complex, sorry). Why?

For most of the past two years, I’ve had at least three smartphones with me. One that is in for a review and my usual two buddies. That means most of the time I am on just one device because despite having three devices, I can only use so much. Telegram has given me the ability to be in touch with the few friends I talk to on a regular basis all the time. Regardless of wherever I am or whichever smartphone I am using, I just turn on my data and voila! There are my messages. Unlike Whatsapp where I have to employ some rudimentary tricks to just get it working on more than one device since they exclusively tie my account to my phone number with no official option of using it on multiple devices. It gets messier if I have a Wi-Fi only tablet. Verification and all. Probably I am wrong and you’ve been able to use Whatsapp on all your devices using the same phone account. Even then, only one account is active at a time and there’s no way to auto-sync messages so that they appear on the other devices as soon as they’re online as well.

Enter the PC. At some point last year, I had a work machine and my workhorse, my personal laptop. Still, I would multi-task on both for the better part of the day. I would still have my messages with me, up to date! As I continued with my student life after that engagement, whenever I got to our department’s computer laboratory (it was in the basement so there was hardly any mobile signal down there so no smartphone to receive texts), I’d have my messages. Right there on my desktop. And no, I didn’t have to struggle with a long and tedious process of installing an Android emulator like Bluestacks to just have Whatsapp running and effectively locking out the only working Whatsapp account on my smartphone.

Yes I know Whatsapp has since been made available for desktop users but it’s just accessible via the Chrome browser but I still need to have my smartphone connected to the internet so as to be able to mirror my chats. Why? Whatsapp wants the messages on your phone to remain on your phone. It doesn’t want to have copies of those naughty images you were sent last night somewhere on its servers then relaying them every time need arises. I appreciate the gesture but I like the convenience that Telegram offers.

Private chats. Messages that self-destruct are the latest fad in town. Of course taking after the teenage phenomenon that is Snapchat and its competitors. Telegram has that built in as well. You can start a private chat with your friend and set a timer for when messages will self-destruct. Simple.

One more thing, it doesn’t have insane app permissions. Just everything it needs to function properly. And no, I don’t agree with all the heads shaking over Facebook Messenger’s app permissions. Unless you simply want Messenger to sit in your app drawer and do nothing, it actually needs all those permissions to fully function. Just go over each permission and check what Messenger does. Then take the Ice Bucket Challenge because your head actually needs that coolness. There’s no need to go mad over that.

Probably one of the reasons why there are very many Whatsapp users is because of the budget mobile phones. Those devices that have internet access but aren’t smartphones. Like the ageing Nokia Ashas. The last generation of the Ashas came bundled with Whatsapp while other unbranded devices in emerging markets also ship with Whatsapp pre-installed. Telegram so far only supports smartphones and you won’t get it on those old Series 40 phones or some no-name $30 phone.

I have a thing for WeChat. It is the only messaging client that has more features than you’ll ever need that is nice unlike others that have travelled the same road like Samsung’s deadwood, ChatON. I like Viber the same way I like Whatsapp so you get the point.

Here’s a quick break down of the reasons why I prefer Telegram to say Whatsapp:

  • No image compression. You don’t lose image quality when you share your photos via Telegram. When using the desktop client, you get to choose if to compress the image or not when you drag and drop. Good luck achieving that with your Whatsapp.
  • You can share almost anything. With Telegram, you are not limited to just multimedia files (audio, video and photos). I use Telegram to share documents, compressed zip files, Android apks and more.
  • You can share very large files. Have a very nice video of your birthday party last night that you don’t want to upload to YouTube and are stuck with it since you can’t share with your circle of friends due to upload limits? Fear not. Telegram lets its users upload files as big as 1.5 GB. Yes, 1.5 GB. On Whatsapp? Good luck sharing images over 16 MB. Oh, and your popular email provider just gives you 25 MB or thereabout.
  • You can access your chats on every device on every dominant platform. Desktop. Tablet. Blackberry. Windows Phone. iOS. Windows. Linux. Your work phone. Your party phone. Your backup phone. Name it. This means that Telegram synchronizes your messages through its servers to keep all your devices updated. Does that pose a security risk given that Whatsapp stores your chats on your device so as to protect your data? You may say so. However, the people behind Telegram are so sure about the security of your chats and all those prying eyes at Fort Meade that they are offering a $300,000 bounty to anyone who can crack their famed end-to-end encryption.
  • You can create self-destructing messages.
  • You can set a handle to share with people who don’t have your phone number. Eeer, instead of a random PIN like they do over on BBM. I have usual @ech**** username setup. You don’t need my mobile number to start chatting with me.
  • Stickers! With the latest update, Telegram has introduced stickers. They are fantastic and you can as well create your own and share with your friends.
  • Telegram allows developers to create third party clients. You can use third party clients that offer more customization options without running the risk of being banned as is the case on Whatsapp.
  • I am not really a fan of large instant messaging groups and while I found Whatsapp’s previous 50 member limit very annoying, the 100 member limit they now allow is more than enough for any groups you’ll ever need to have. At least if you plan to keep things civilized. Never mind though since Telegram has your back as it can allow as much as 200 of your former classmates to engage in the usual banter securely.

The cons?

  • Well, security is still of concern to me but I’ll take Telegram as is.
  • Whatsapp has a voice calling feature these days. Telegram still lacks that.
  • Since I tend to share lots of documents and apps via Telegram, it reaches a time when I want to go back and access them again and sifting through the thousands of messages I send per month is a nightmare. I know it’s an instant messaging service but I’d appreciate it if there could be a nice search feature.

People usually ask me why I prefer Telegram when I tell them about it and my response is usually, “it is like Whatsapp. Only better.” I bet that is the case. Don’t agree with me? Give Telegram a spin and tell me what you think or just thank me later. The one main problem you’ll find with Telegram if you have friends like mine is that no one around you is using it. Blegh.