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Indian govt’s WhatsApp alternative Sandes: What is it, how to download it, how to sign up

Sandes claims to offer end-to-end encryption and also has other features similar to WhatsApp like message broadcasts and the ability to send multimedia content to other users.

Sandes (that means message in Hindi) can be used by both individuals and government officials.
Sandes (that means message in Hindi) can be used by both individuals and government officials. (Gadgets360)

The Indian government has an alternative for WhatsApp and other messaging apps and it’s called Sandes. Launched by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), Sandes is an upgrade to the existing Government Instant Messaging System (GIMS).

GIMS was created to provide government officials a WhatsApp-like app for communication and was exclusive to government users only. However, Sandes (that means message in Hindi) can be used by both individuals and government officials.

To sign up on Sandes all you need is your phone number or your email ID and the app has features almost identical to WhatsApp’s including the option to create groups and send multimedia content to others using the app, mark messages as favourites and also send message broadcasts. Like WhatsApp and other instant messaging apps, Sandes also claims to support end-to-end encryption.

How to download

You can download the Sandes app on your smartphone from the GIMS website here. For Android users there is an APK file that works on devices running Android 5.0 and above. For iOS users, Sandes can be downloaded from the App Store and works on the iPhone, iPad and even the iPod Touch that’s on iOS 12.0 and above.

How to sign up

You can sign up on the Sandes app using your mobile number or your email ID. Once you feed in your number or your email ID, you will get a six-digit OTP for authentication. Once you are authenticated and have signed up on the Sandesw app, you can edit your profile and select a status message like you do on WhatsApp.

WhatsApp VS Sandes: What’s the same

Sandes has a lot of features in common with WhatsApp like the ability to send photos and videos to other users, broadcast messages, the ability to mark messages as favourites etc. Basics on both these messaging apps seem to be the same as far as what you can do with them. Sandes also claims to offer end-to-end encryption similar to WhatsApp.

WhatsApp VS Sandes: What’s different 

Now, there are certain facets that are different too. For example, you can sign up on Sandes with an email ID if you don’t want to use your phone number, WhatsApp requires a phone number for you to sign up.

Sandes also has verified accounts for government employees, WhatsApp does not have verified accounts for any individuals.

Sandes allows you to send chat backups to an external location of your choice including an email. WhatsApp chat backups only go to Google Drive if you are on Android, to iCloud if you are on iPhone.

On Sandes you cannot change your mobile number or email ID once you have signed up. If you want to change either you will have to delete your current account and create a new one with a different number or email ID. WhatsApp has a dedicated “Change Number” feature that allows you to change phone numbers without having to delete your profile.

The government is yet to explain how exactly it plans to use Sandes but going by the features it supports, this could be an alternative to messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram. The government has sent out a circular already asking its employees to use Sandes for their official communication. However, this home-grown WhatsApp alternative is yet to gain popularity publicly.

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