What is Telegram? A Quick Guide to the Messaging App

If you’re a WhatsApp user, you may be looking for alternatives, such as Telegram. What is Telegram? This guide will explain everything.

When WhatsApp updated its privacy policy in 2021, people became concerned about the app sharing data with its parent company, Meta. Many people jumped ship, and one of the apps that benefited greatly was Telegram, which had a big spike in subscriber numbers.

What is Telegram, exactly? Read on to learn more.

What is Telegram?

Telegram is a secure messaging app with core features similar to WhatsApp and Signal. You can communicate via text, voice, and video and chat one-on-one or in groups of multiple people.

Since the communication is transmitted over the internet, the app is free to use. Unlike most of its rivals, however, Telegram does offer a paid tier called Telegram Premium, which we will look at in more detail below.

What Makes Telegram Different?

There are numerous chat apps available, but Telegram is a little different from most of them, thanks to some of the unique features that it offers.


Apps like WhatsApp and Signal allow you to create group chats with around 1,000 participants. For people who are just using the apps socially, this is usually more than enough.

In contrast, Telegram allows you to create groups with up to 200,000 members, all of whom can both read and write messages to the group.
telegram group

This allows the creation of groups that are more like communities, where like-minded people who don’t necessarily know each other can interact.

Broadcast Channels

Telegram takes things one step further with broadcast channels. A broadcast channel allows the creator to send messages to an unlimited number of people who subscribe to the channel. This is a one-way system; the creator can broadcast to all the subscribers, but they can’t reply back.
telegram channel

This is a great feature for businesses that want to be able to keep people updated about their business without their message getting lost in a host of replies.

Voice Chats

Most messaging apps allow you to make group voice and video calls, but Telegram takes things a little further with Voice Chats. Unlike a voice call, where everyone needs to answer the call at the same time, Voice Chats allow you to create a live chat within a group chat that anyone can join in with at any time.

You’re free to leave the room and continue messaging in other chats and then return to the room again and rejoin the voice chat. You can also opt to listen to the chat rather than join in. These chats can accommodate thousands of participants, so they are ideal for large groups.


Telegram also allows you to use bots within your chats. These bots are like tiny apps that work within your chats and can add useful functions. There are a huge number of bots available, currently standing at more than 10 million.

telegram bot

They cover everything from bots that can find you hotels to bots that can send you reminders directly within your chat. You can even develop your own bots using the Telegram Bot API.

Telegram Premium

Another significant way that Telegram differs from other messaging apps is that it offers a paid tier. The core services are free to use, but if you opt to pay the monthly subscription (currently $3.99 or $4.99 through an App Store in-app purchase), you get a wide range of extras.

These include:

  • Doubled limits on channels, folders, public links, and accounts
  • Doubled limits on file sizes, allowing files up to 4 GB
  • Faster downloads
  • Animated emoji
  • In-app real-time translation
  • Voice-to-text conversion
  • Animate profile pictures
  • No ads

How Does Telegram Compare to Other Apps?

The features above aren’t offered by many of Telegram’s competitors, such as WhatsApp and Signal. A key part of why Telegram is able to offer these features is because it works a little differently.

WhatsApp and Signal both use end-to-end encryption. Your message is securely encrypted when you send it, and it doesn’t get decrypted until it reaches the recipient’s device. That means that when it passes through WhatsApp or Signal’s servers, it’s still encrypted, and the company can’t access its content.

Telegram encrypts your messages, but only between the sender and the server and then from the server to the recipient. The message is not encrypted when on Telegram’s servers. This means that Telegram can offer useful features, such as being able to store large files in Telegram without filling up your phone’s storage space or accessing your messages from a new device.

The downside of this, however, is that your messages are far less secure. Telegram can read the content of your messages if it wishes, and if there is a data breach, your unencrypted messages may also be at risk.

It is possible to use end-to-end encryption for messages in Telegram using Secret Chats. However, doing so removes some of the features that set Telegram apart. For example, you can only access Secret Chats on the device you started them on. Secret Chats are also only available for one-to-one chats and not for groups. In Signal, for example, end-to-end encryption is used for all chats, including group chats.

telegram shared info

Telegram also isn’t as private as some messaging apps. Whilst it doesn’t harvest as much data as WhatsApp, it’s significantly less private than Signal.

What Devices Does Telegram Support?

Telegram is available for Android, iPhone, and iPad, but there are also desktop versions available too. You can use Telegram Desktop on macOS, Windows, and Linux. The only thing you’ll need is a valid phone number.

If you don’t want to install a standalone desktop app, you can also use Telegram through a web browser, and there are even extensions for Chrome and Edge. Unless you’re making a Secret Chat, you can pick up any chat on any device.

How to Install Telegram

You can install Telegram from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. If you want to install a desktop version of Telegram, you can download desktop versions of Telegram for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

To start using the app, follow the on-screen instructions and enter your phone number. A verification code will be sent to your phone. Enter this code and choose a display name. Telegram will also require access to your contacts to that it can find other Telegram users that you know. Once the setup is complete, you’re ready to start messaging.

Choose the Right Messaging App for You

What is Telegram? With any luck, this article has given you some insight into the app and what makes it stand out from the crowd. If you’re looking for features such as broadcast channels and huge group sizes, then Telegram can offer what others can’t.

However, if security and privacy are your key concerns, and you only intend to use the app for chatting with friends or colleagues, then you might want to take a look at Signal instead.

If you’re thinking about joining Telegram and you’re concerned about what Meta is doing with your personal data, you may decide that you want to delete your WhatsApp account.

And if you’re planning to ditch iMessage too, you can learn how to turn off iMessage on iPhone and Mac next.

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