A new update adds a long desired feature to the messaging app.
Telegram is a light-weight privacy focused messaging app which serves as an alternative to services like Whatsapp. Telegram boasts a nice interface with plenty of appealing features, as well as end-to-end encryption, but it has always lacked a voice call feature. Telegram has argued in the past that they are a messaging app, and that they want to focus on making the IM experience as good as possible, putting features like voice calls on the back burner since there’s already apps that do that. Now it seems as though Telegram has had a change of heart, and with the latest update, they release encrypted voice calls that are more than a little impressive.
The call quality is superb. During initial tests, I found that the quality of the connection on a call between Scandinavia and Australia was flawless and crispy clear, notably better than the call quality on Skype. A slight delay of around half a second seemed to persist during the call, but nothing which seemed to impinge upon the conversation. When headphones were disconnected however, significant echoing occurred, worse than what I usually experience with Skype.
In addition to good sound, the calls somehow also manage to be rather light-weight in terms of data. I found an average of roughly 430KB of data had been transferred per minute while calling, which potentially means some 40 hours of call time per gigabyte used. A Skype-to-Skype call at 50kbps, by comparison, runs around 3MB per minute, which would give you just over 5 hours for your gigabyte. Telegram adapts the call quality on the fly to fit your data connection, but if you’re running low, there’s also an option in the settings menu called “use less data”, which will cut the call quality by 25-50% in order to scrape just a little more off the top.
The voice chat also features a neural network which analyzes your call and looks at several different parameters such as pink and bit rate. It uses this data to optimize calls in the future, meaning that every call you make helps improve quality for the next call. Before you ask, no, there’s nobody analyzing the contents of your call. Telegram believes in privacy and end-to-end encryption is one of its strongest features. In fact, every call features a set of four emojis which are visible in the upper right corner of your call window. As long as you and your call partner have the same symbols, your call is completely encrypted.
In addition to voice calls, the new Telegram update also features a change to video sharing. At the tap of a button, you can choose between five different video qualities, compared to the two options (HD, or SD) in the past.