SMS & alternatives

A very dear friend of mine is complaining most SMS messages they send to me apparently are not being received. They reside in the USA, and I reside in Europe (EU). They are suggesting we use WhatsApp. (They seem to receive the SMS txts I send them.)

The WhatsApp suggestion is a NON-starter for at least two reasons: SMS should work (most of the time); and WhatsApp is owned by Meta (Facebook), hence 100% completely UNacceptable (if you think Meta’s products are acceptable, please send to my Nigerian Prince partner your ID & banking details!).

So three-ish questions:

:arrow_forward: How can we determine what the (alleged-)SMS problem could be? (More on this below.)

:arrow_forward: Suggested alternatives to WhatsApp? I realise this is an open-ended query, so please allow me to suggest a few parameters:

▷ End-to-end cryptographically-secure encryption.
▷ Sign-up & login does not require phone number or other ID.
▷ Free (even if reduced functionality).
▷ App NOT required, on both Linux™ and Android.
▷ Can be backed-up to LOCAL devices (e.g., Android & (especially) Linux).
▷ … ?

:arrow_forward: Is there an (International) “SMS Testing” service? I have used “The Test Call” for Voice Tests, but am currently unaware of any SMS equivalent.

On the SMS problem, I do not know if the messages from→them→to→me are being sent in a consistent manner or not (e.g., are they replying or initiating new txts?). Nor do I know what phone (possibly some iPhone model?) or USA-based carrier (phone company) they use. Etc., etc… no details at all. (I have asked them to (e-mail) me a screenshot showing as many details as possible of an apparently failed message.)


Use Signal. While it does require a phone number, it is by far the most usable and widespread secure messaging app currently available.


I concur :smiley:

You can check the delivery reports on your device (sometimes it’s turned off, check settings). If that seems okay, then your next stop would be your provider - open a ticket and give them some examples with proper timestamps and they will look into it (same goes for your friends).

I am using Jabber/XMPP for the longest time but there is a new promising contestant: SimpleX

It’s still very young and sometimes quirky but it works already quite nicely. Other than that perhaps you two could find something else on the very same page:

As for other services, I doubt you’ll find anything free… I have a SIP-provider to circumvent the astronomical costs of calls abroad (SIP account on my phone), they also offer SMS:

Try Signal you can send sms , phone or video calls

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There’s also Telegram but I wouldn’t be recommending that. Signal certainly.

While you do need a phone number to anchor the account, once you’ve set up on your mobile phone, if you wish you can install any number of mirror instances on Windows, Mac and Linux. They all show all your messages, as long as you keep them up to date (just make sure you launch them regularly), and of course that provides more comfort if sending longer messages and other content. Good security and your info is only stored on your devices.

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After having switched from Google Android to /e/ OS with my FP4 I wasn’t motivated to reinstall Telegram or use Signal, let alone ever touching FB/Meta crap stuff.
So I’m using free QKSMS which just suits my needs.

It offers SMS & MMS service, delivery confirmation, archiving, delayed sending, backup/restore, a few eye candy options (themes) just to name some core features.
I have mainly chosen for this, as my first priority is finding an (free) app requesting for the least permissions for my needed functionality.
It scores 9/10 on F-Droid related to (no) trackers and privacy. There are surely a few more.

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Apologies for a very basic suggestion, but just yesterday I was helping a friend with a similar problem. It turns out that her phone hadn’t been turned off or reset in a very long time. Once we did that, it seemed like the other issues she had been seeing stopped happening.
I assume that both you and your friend are savvy enough to have tried that, but it might be worth double-checking before you spend a lot of effort digging into more complicated solutions.

During the time I worked in computer support, I can’t tell you how much wasted time I saw users and other techs dumping time into complicated solutions for simple problems. :face_with_diagonal_mouth:


Thanks for ALL the suggestions!

Signal is a (mostly) a non-starter… A switch from SMS to something “secure” means “SECURE”, so the ability to track who talks to who is unacceptable (mostly), as is the (presumed) potential for spam (i.e., “guess” (try) my phone number (also a problem with SMS)). Please note the “mostly”-qualifiers here, if seems possible that if my friend agrees, we could proceed… (I have other issues with Signal, including its (apparently) poor Linux interface, lack of any Web-interface, possibility non-existent ability to do backups/saves, confusing information about it, etc.)

The problem seems to be with “SMS” in general, so a different SMS-app seems pointless? (I am currently still using Android-11 on my FP3, so perhaps Android-13 changes things… and some of the suggested alternative-SMS apps don’t install on Android-11 anyways.)

My friend has so-far not replied to my e-mails so I’ve been unable to follow-up with my provider (or, I assume, them with theirs?).

Many Thanks!

I take it you’re not saying that Signal organisation does that. If you are, I’d be interested to hear your evidence. Otherwise it’s important not to put this sort of affirmation nearly in the same sentence as the name of a product, some people might misunderstand you.

Well the system has to be able to identify you somehow, and since you already have a phone number, why make things more complicated? As long as you take sensible steps to avoid publishing your details you shouldn’t have too many problems. I don’t, and my phone number is over 20 years old.

True, but you have apps for Windows, (I haven’t tried the one for Linux so can’t comment.)

Not so. Backups are very easy to set up. The files produced are protected with a passphrase. What you do with the files is your affair.


Hi @blf

not sure if this helps you but I had a similar issue with my business phone about half/full year ago that took a while to solve:

Situation was that I usually used my business phone to recieve 2FA codes for verification via SMS.
This never was a big deal at all before but our company was taken over by an US competitor.
What they did in the background was: They changed our internal network and verification services and the provider of those 2FA verifications thereby was changed to an US telecommunication provider.
From this point on I was not able to get any verification numbers anymore on my (german provider) business phone from one day to the next.

It took several months for me and our IT department to track down the issue that some (several?) US IT/communication service providers got issues with sending over the SMS properly to some (several?) german IT/communication service providers.

To cut a long story short: If there´s an possibility then try to use a different SIM card from a different provider (ideally on both sides) and see if this is a possible solution.

Alternatively you and your friend could each contact your service providers to let them verify that each SMS -back and/or forth- was delivered properly (… but this may take some longer time and some additional persistence in dealing with them)



I don’t understand what you mean with “secure”, as it uses Sealed Sender to conceal who you’re chatting with.

The Signal-Desktop program is mostly in parity with the Signal-Android app. Aside from the fact that GIF search is missing.

You may want to check out SimpleX Chat, it uses Tor and it’s what I would sue if I was a tinfoiler.

Is this of any help???

Hi @blf, hi everybody,

have yout tried the messenger conversations ?
you don’t need an phonenumber for it. You find it in f-droid store or diretly on the conversations web.

Questions to everyone:

how good are your experience with QkSMS??
Do you receive all SMS (at least in Germany) people for ex. a bank send you?


Works perfectly fine for me.


Thanks! @yvmuell
so …I will try it

I used QKSMS in the past, now on /e/OS I’m using the default SMS App, which is a QKSMS fork.
Never a problem for me.


I’ve been using QKSMS for over a year now (installed from F-Droid as well) and I’m very happy with it.

I have always received all the SMSs I expected (including those from the bank, public administrations, notifications with codes, etc.) :ok_hand:


Today I began to use QKSMS… I love it!


Sadly, it hasn’t been updated for years. I used it back when it was updated, but now I use Textra instead.

Last version is from Jan 2023

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