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Signal messaging app: How to use, key features, add more contacts and more

Signal App: While Signal has many features that one would have seen on WhatsApp or other messaging apps, the new user interface can leave some users confused. We explain in detail how to set up, use Signal, and the key features. 

Written by Shruti Dhapola | Chandigarh | Updated: January 13, 2021 11:29:54 am
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Signal, a private messaging app, is currently topping charts on Apple’s App Store, ahead of rivals Telegram and WhatsApp. The shift towards Signal has been driven by the change in WhatsApp’s privacy policy, which has caused an uproar. While Signal has many features that one would have seen on WhatsApp or other messaging apps, the new user interface can leave some users confused. We explain in detail how to set up, use Signal, and the key features.

Signal app: How to set up

You can download the Signal app from Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. The developer name is Signal Messenger, LLC. Just like WhatsApp you need to enter your mobile number to set up the account.

When you first download Signal, it will ask you for your mobile number to create an account . Just like on WhatsApp you get a verification code on your SMS app, which is then used to verify your account. You can then add your name, profile photo and start using Signal.

How to find Signal app settings on Android and iOS

On Android, you will see the three dot menu on top. Tap on that, and you will see options for New Group, Mark all Read, Invite Friends and Settings.

In iOS, tap on your profile picture or account name on the top left corner, and the Settings menu should open up.

You can change the app’s appearance from here (Dark or Light theme or system wide settings), tweak the privacy settings, notifications, see other linked devices, and also go to Advanced Settings. The Help option is also there in the Settings, and an option to Donate to Signal as well given it is run by a non-profit.

What is this PIN, why does it keep asking it every time I open the app?

When you set up Signal the first time, it will ask you to create a PIN. Signal says this keeps the information stored within the app encrypted ensuring that only you can access it. What it also does is when you restore Signal on the same device, your previous profile, settings and contacts are restored. So make sure you set a PIN that you will remember. Signal says the PIN reminders will be less frequent overtime.

Read more: Thinking of switching to Signal? Here’s a lowdown on the WhatsApp alternative

In Android and iOS you can turn off PIN reminders in the settings. In Android and iOS, go to Settings>Privacy> Pin Reminders and turn it off.

I just reinstalled Signal on my new iPhone or Android device. I don’t see any contacts or previous chats.

Signal does not have third-party cloud backups like WhatsApp. So when you reinstall Signal on a new device, the old chats will not come back. However Signal does have some steps for those who wish to transfer data from the older device, though keep in mind these only work when you have access to the old device in question, which might not be possible for everyone.

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We explain below how to add your contacts and friends to the app.

How do I find contacts on Signal? I don’t see any of my contacts using this app. I’m using it for the first time.

On iOS, you will see a Pen symbol on top. Tap on it. This is to start a new Message. But you will also see an option to search by Phone number. You can manually enter a friends’ phone number and find out if they are on the app and message them. Once they accept your chat request, you can continue chatting with them.

 

You will also find the option to Invite friends to Signal here. Tap on it and you will be given a choice to send a message or mail to invite them to Signal. If you scroll down, you might see a list of friends who are using Signal. Tap on any friend’s name and message them to start chatting.

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On Android too, tap the Pen symbol, which is at the bottom. Here, a list of contacts using the app should be visible. Tap on the friend’s name and send them a message. To invite friends who are not using the app, tap on the three dot menu on top and choose invite friends. You can choose to share that link which is generated with contacts or even forward straight on WhatsApp with the choose how to Share option.

How do I create a Group on Signal?

On Android and iOS, just tap on the Pen symbol and you will see the option for starting a New Group. Tap on it, you will see a list of friends who are using the app. Choose your friends, Add Group Name which is optional and a group photo if you wish to and create the group. But keep in mind that friends will have to accept the invite to the group. Just because someone is in your contacts, doesn’t mean they are automatically added to a group created by you. You can share Group Links as well to invite more members via a link and also toggle on an option to approve new members who are added. In the Member requests segment, you can see if there are pending invites or any requests to join the group.

Read more: How to move your WhatsApp groups to Signal

Like WhatsApp, the group has admins. If you created the group, you are an admin. You can restrict addition of new members, editing group information to just admins as well. Further disappearing messages can be turned on for group chats as well. You can tap on any user’s name and make them a group admin as well. Each group can have a maximum of 150 members.

Why does Signal keep asking me to verify chats with my contacts?

Each Signal chat has a “unique safety number” that allows you to verify the security of your messages and calls with that specific contact in question. You would have noticed on WhatsApp, which also uses the same Signal protocol for end-to-end encryption (E2E), every time your contacts switch to a new device, the chat has a message that their security code has changed.

Signal lets you verify the safety number with each chat, to ensure that the chat is E2E secured. You can tap on the individual’s name on top of the chat, and view the Safety Number and mark it as verified. You can share that number with the friend and ask them to double check it as well. Or you can scan the QR code on your friend’s phone if they are nearby and verify the chat.

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“A checkmark will appear in the chat header by your contact’s name when the safety number is marked as verified,” according to Signal. The company’s support page also adds, ‘it will remain verified unless the safety number changes or you manually change the verification status.” This safety number changes when you switch to a new device.

Can I set up disappearing messages on Signal?

Yes, you can tap on an individual chat or group chat and set up disappearing messages. Tap on the user or group name, and you will see the toggle button for disappearing messages in the list of options. Just turn it on. You can set a time from five seconds to one week, and the messages in the chat will disappear after they have seen.

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What about video and audio calls?

Each Signal chat has the option for video and group call. For group calls, everyone needs to be on the new version of groups and not older legacy groups, so make sure you are on the latest version of the app. We did find that group video calls were a little tough to start and the experience buggy. You also have to make sure that everyone in the group has verified safety numbers in order for the group video call to continue. On the video call front, Signal still needs a lot of work. Group calls are currently limited to 5 participants.

Can I share photos, files and GIFs on Signal?

Yes, just tap on the plus symbol next to the text bot in each chat. You will see options for camera, GIF, File, Contacts and Location Sharing. If tap on the mic symbol you can send audio messages as well.

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