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Signal is ‘starting to phase out SMS support’ from its Android app

Signal is ‘starting to phase out SMS support’ from its Android app


The company says the transition will take months but that its app will only send Signal messages once it’s complete

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Illustration of the Signal logo, a white speech balloon with a dotted outline, on a black and blue background.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Signal is beginning to phase out support for sending and receiving standard text messages from its Android app after years of supporting the ability to have them alongside your Signal messages, which are end-to-end encrypted and sent using data. The company says that if you have its app set as your default SMS and MMS client, you’ll have to pick a new app to handle those duties.

According to a Wednesday blog post, users will have “several months to transition away from SMS in Signal” and to migrate their messages to a new app. Of course, the post also recommends trying to convert the people you were texting into Signal users. If you do use the feature (you can check by going to Signal’s settings screen, then to Chats > SMS and MMS and seeing if “use as default SMS app” is enabled), you’ll start seeing notifications reminding you that you’ll have to change over soon.

Signal wants to make it clear what its app is for: sending secure messages

The company’s post explains a few reasons why it decided to make the change, but they all boil down to simplicity; it’s worried about having two very different types of messaging in its app, one of which is end-to-end encrypted and uses data, and one that’s more or less completely insecure and has a separate billing scheme for some phone plans. (Signal specifically says it heard from users who got smacked with high phone bills because they sent SMS messages when they thought they were sending Signal messages.)

Not included in the post is any mention of Rich Communication Services, or RCS, the standard that companies like Google, Samsung, and some cell carriers are pushing as a replacement for SMS messaging. It’s not like RCS would’ve solved the confusion, though; it can support end-to-end encryption but isn’t necessarily secure by default, and you can’t send RCS messages to iPhones, meaning you’d either have to fall back to SMS or just not be able to message some people in your default texting app.

Signal didn’t immediately reply to The Verge’s request for comment on whether its app supported RCS or whether the adoption of it as a messaging standard for Android played into its decision to remove text messaging from its app.