Secure messaging app Telegram has introduced video calling with end-to-end encryption that prevents eavesdropping, increasing pressure on Zoom, Apple’s FaceTime and similar services.
The feature is now live in Telegram 7.0 for iOS.
You can start a video call from your contact’s profile page and switch video on or off at any time during voice calls. Like all other video content on Telegram, video calls support picture-in-picture mode allowing you to scroll through chats and multitask while maintaining eye contact.
The company notes in releases notes accompanying the download the this is the first version of the video-calling feature. The Telegram software recently turned 7 years old. And with 400 million active users, it is now one of the top 10 most downloaded apps in the world.
To bolster your security, there’s a neat feature to confirm that your video connection is in fact end-to-end encrypted: just compare the four emoji shown in the top-right corner for you and the chat participant. If they match, the call is 100% secured by end-to-end encryption.
The same encryption protects Telegram’s secret chats and voice calls. It should be noted that Telegram uses its own custom encryption that was originally developed in Russia. By contrast, the Signal encryption which is used by the Signal app and some other messaging apps is based on open standards that have been reviewed by security experts.
“Video calls will receive more features and improvements in future versions, as we work toward launching group video calls in the coming months,” the company noted in a blog post. They’ve also added another batch of new animated emoji which you can get by sending a message to someone with a single emoji.
Telegram in June introduced several new options, including an easier way to find GIFs from within the app and all-new video editing tools.
With today’s feature addition, Telegram has become a service that combines instant messaging, video calling and VoIP calling. While rival cross-platform apps also combine these features, including WhatsApp, Messenger and Viber, Apple’s approach is different.
iMessage is one of the strongest pulls in the Apple ecosystem and it won’t be coming to other platforms anytime soon. Even so, Apple should be concerned about Facebook developing an iMessage-like, privacy-first unified communications solution with strong encryption.
Given Facebook’s scale, such a solution is likely to gain significant traction in no time. The social network has spent the last two years laying the groundwork for a big unification of its chat services. Recently, for instance, some Instagram users in the US started seeing a splash screen in the app asking them to merge their Messenger and Instagram chats.