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How to Switch to Signal and Bring All your Texts With You

Signal is your best choice for text messaging if security and privacy are your most important priorities. It’s growing in popularity and gaining more useful features over time, and it’s easier than ever to get your existing messages into Signal—and to move them between phones if you upgrade to a new one.

The main appeal of Signal is the end-to-end encryption that means no one can intercept and read your messages: That includes hackers, Apple and Google, government and law enforcement agencies, and anyone working at Signal itself.

On Android, Signal can also double-up as your SMS app (something iPhones don’t allow). For contacts who aren’t on Signal, the app will send a standard text message instead—this breaks the end-to-end encryption, but you’ll be able to see inside the app which messages are which. For maximum security, get as many of your friends on Signal as you can.

There are more reasons to use Signal too, including encrypted voice and video calls, disappearing messages, group chats, file sharing, a desktop app, and more. For now, we’ll focus on how to get your messages moved between apps and devices.

Setting Up Signal and Importing Messages

screenshot of Signal app
Signal will offer to be the default SMS app on Android.Screenshot: David Nield via Signal

If you’re setting up Signal from scratch, you need to find Signal in the app store for Android or iOS, then follow the prompts to install. If you’re on Android, you’ll be asked if you want to set Signal as your default SMS app—you can use it alongside another SMS app, but you can bring everything together in Signal if you want (messages will be sent over Signal to contacts who have the app).

If you decide to set Signal as the default SMS app on Android, you have another choice, which appears as a prompt on screen: Whether or not to import your existing SMS texts into Signal. This won’t remove messages from your older app, but it will create copies inside Signal, and future SMSes will be handled by Signal alone.

There’s no such option in iOS, as Apple doesn’t allow other apps to handle SMS messages at all (or iMessage), let alone be set as the default app. If you’re using Signal on an iPhone, you’ll only be able to communicate with other Signal users. On both Android and iOS, you can import older Signal messages from another phone if needed, which we’ll get on to in detail below.