Sandes app: Better than WhatsApp? What about user data? We answer your questions

Sandes, which is the Indian government’s instant messaging app, is now accessible to everyone. Previously, it was only available for government officials. The app, which has been launched by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), gives a boost to PM Narendra Modi’s Digital India and Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) initiative.

This is an end-to-end encrypted messaging app, which is aimed to as an alternative to WhatsApp. If you are still trying out different messaging apps and wondering if Sandes is worth a shot, then read on to get answers to your questions.

Is Sandes better than WhatsApp in terms of features? What is different?

Sandes is free to use and there are no ads in the app. Do note that when you download it, the app’s name is displayed as GIMS (Government Instant Messaging System). But, the government is calling it as Sandes, which basically means message in Hindi.

Sandes has an interface similar to WhatsApp and you will find most of the WhatsApp features in this app. We will get to this in a bit, let’s first walk you through the notable differences between both the messaging apps.

One of the major differences is Sandes offers an option to sign up using the email id and not just with mobile phone number. However, this is currently restricted to government officials only. WhatsApp only allows you to create an account using your number.

You will also notice verified accounts on this platform, which isn’t available on WhatsApp. The government’s messaging app allows you to share videos or photos with up to 500MB, which is more than WhatsApp. The latter lets you send videos with 16MB limit in size and regular files up to 100MB.

We liked the fact that you can back up chats on your device and choose an external location. You have the option to back up chats on email too. If you are a WhatsApp user, then you know that the Facebook-owned app only lets you back up chats to either Google Drive on Android or iCloud on iOS.

But the Sandes app does not let you change your mobile number or email ID after creating an account. So, if you have a new mobile number or lost your email id, then you will have to create a new account and all your chats will be lost. In contrast, WhatsApp lets you change phone number without deleting your existing profile.

Currently, there is no fingerprint lock feature and screen lock feature, which WhatsApp offers. Other privacy features seen in Signal app such as incognito keyboard mode, screen security (block screenshots feature) are also not available.  You don’t get to check whether the recipient has read your message either.

But Sandes lets you check weather details of your city in the app. You can add priority or confidential labels to messages, which is interesting. There is also a section called “Gimoji,” which displays symbols used in official communication.

Features like broadcast message, status, disappearing messages, forward messages, delete messages, archive chats and more, are available on Sandes app. You can create a group and add at least 50 members. Sandes also offers an option to sync contacts and add new contacts who are using the same platform. Anyone can add you to a group on this instant messaging app and there is no invitation system.

What user data does Sandes collect and what about security?

The app’s privacy label on Apple’s App Store shows that it collects Contact Info, User Content, Identifiers, Diagnostics and other data. The latter means the system collects metadata of each message, including the sender’s Identity, the receiver’s identity, the date, time and size of instant or group messages, audio and video calling date, time and duration.

The log files, crash reports, user’s service settings, online status, last seen status and date of when you last updated your profile. These are quite normal and are collected by most of the messaging apps.

As per the privacy policy of the Sandes app, all messages in an individual or group chats are “End-to-End encrypted for ensuring secure communication.” The policy has clearly stated that the system does not sell or share any personally identifiable information to “any third party, except covered under law enforcement/court matter etc.”

Any information provided to the system will be protected from unauthorised access, alteration, or destruction.”

Can you use Sandes app on a laptop or desktop or tablet?

For now, the Sandes app is available for Android, and iOS users only. It isn’t compatible with tablets, but you can use the web version of the app. Currently, it is also not available on Play Store and you will get the app via the government’s site. iOS users can download the Sandes app from App Store.

Can’t find the app on Play Store? Here’s how to download Sandes app

Step 1: You just need to visit go to the www.gims.gov.in/dash/dlink website and click on the download button.

Step 2: Open the app and create your account using your phone number. You will then get an OTP, which you will be asked to enter to create an account.

Step 3: Enter you name, gender and upload your profile. The latter is optional and you can choose to skip if you don’t to upload your image.

Step 4: You will also be asked to give location permission to the app, which you can skip. The next window will ask whether you want to sync contacts or not, and then you are all set. You can start messaging anyone.

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