if you've followed our messenger service provider reviews over the years you'll have realised our team is are big fans of decentralization and that matrix-based apps (Element, SchildiChat etc.) are always high on our list when it comes to good secure messaging apps.
One issue with Element, however, is metadata and whilst this won't be fixed overnight, there are some matrix apps that are already focusing on direct p2p messaging. Some are in early alpha or even beta stage so some are pretty close to making things happen. Today I don’t want to just do another messaging app review but look instead at the different options people have when it comes to matrix-based chats.
Element is probably the best known and has been reviewed by us in the past. The desktop app is great and the iPad and iOS app are pretty good. I hate that the font is Amal and doesn't adjust with the system settings on iOS if I can criticise it. However, another issue along with metadata is data collection and surprisingly Element is not as privacy-friendly as we might hope. Data is directly linked to you and so is diagnostics.
What could you use on iOS as an alternative?
Fluffychat, for one, is the fluffiest chat when it comes to matrix chats. It's faster and seems to work better with push, whereas on the original version of Element the notification sound was sometimes working and sometimes not (more often not actually working).
FluffyChat still has diagnostics but not linked to you, yet...well still in place.
Another alternative called Synoid.im
It is a form of Element but with a little more privacy in mind. Still, it collects contact info and identifiers. This might be needed to keep the app running, I am not entirely sure, Fluffychat does not mention these but since it's in the developers hands to decide what to summit to Apple this could very well be the case. However, Synoid is as close to Element as it gets but with way less data being collected.
Syphon (android and iOS)
Seems to be the best solution as it has zero data collection. It also has the best UI. However, it is in early beta and the cross signing of keys is not yet supported. That said the developer responded very quickly when I emailed him and they promised that cross signing will be supported in the next release. I can't wait for this as this would be my goto app on iOS (only iPhone, iPad version is not yet supported)
Syphon has a great statement on their website:
No analytics. Period.
No proprietary third-party services
But what makes this the one I have my eyes on is it's approach to going fully p2p:
P2P messaging through a locally run server on the client
This is still on the to-do list, but already being listed is a very good start! I cannot wait to see how this turns out because they already have the best-looking matrix app so also having the best features would make it the killer app I've been waiting for.
On iOS, that's pretty much what is available, these are some pretty good picks and, frankly, Element would come in as our least favourite choice on an iOS device.
On Android, you have Syphon which is very promising, Element (from F-Droid) and SchildiChat which is our goto on Android at the moment.
But what about desktop?
I hear people saying that Element is the most used and it works and looks great. Of course the web app works as well, looks great and gets permanent improvements. But you do have some pretty good options here as well.
The flatpack version is a pretty good looking app, it looks more like iMessage on macOS than Element does, but that makes it pretty cool and appealing.
FluffyChat is another great and functional one. And just as on iOS its just fluffier (whatever that means haha). It is available for Linux, Snap and Flatpack.
Another great desktop option, and it has a build for Windows, macOS and Linux, is SchildiChat, yes. the same as I have as my goto on my Android phone.
SchildiChat has pretty much everyone covered except the iOS folks. For me, the most important point is Matrix is a way to decentralize, and not just with an own instance or by choosing an instance but also by picking a great app for it.
Overall, when you use mobile you have way better options for the matrix, but it seems we see some great desktop versions popping up!