Signal users can now keep their phone numbers provide with usernames

Signal username on white background
Example of username on Signal (Image credit: Signal)

What you need to know

  • By default, your phone number will no longer be available to everyone on Signal.
  • Users can now connect with one another without needing to share a number, thanks to usernames.
  • New privacy settings limit who can find you by your phone number.

Up until today, Signal users had to utilize phone numbers in order to initiate a chat on the app, but now that is no longer the case. As part of a new update, Signal is rolling out a new username feature, which will allow users to connect with each other without a number, the company announced Wednesday. 

Currently in beta with plans to become available to all users in a few weeks, the feature makes what is already an extremely secure end-to-end encrypted messaging app even more secure. Through this update, by default, a user's phone number will no longer be available to everyone they chat with on Signal, though if another user has that number saved as a contact, they still will be able to see it on account of already knowing such information.

Signal app view

Users can change how they connect with other users (Image credit: Signal)

With that in mind, users can now connect without a phone number serving as the intermediary. Instead, users can create a unique username that they can use in place of providing their number.

It’s important to note that a phone number will still be required to sign up for Signal, but beyond that, users can connect without sharing one. Additionally, per Signal’s announcement, a username is not a profile name, nor is it permanent; rather, it’s “simply a way to initiate contact on Signal without sharing your phone number.” 

Finally, as part of these enhanced security features, users can also limit who is able to find them on Signal. An optional privacy setting ensures that a user can only connect with another user if they have their exact unique username. Even if they have your phone number, they won’t know that you are on Signal unless they have your username, thus adding enhanced protection. 

If these new features aren’t something of interest, users can revert to the original privacy settings, including the ability for everyone to see their phone number or simply those who have saved that user as a contact, also known as a “Nobody” setting.

Profile settings on Signal app

To create a username, go to settings (Image credit: Signal)

Signal notes that usernames will not work like those found on other social media platforms in that it is not how a user will be known on the app and it is not something that will be displayed on a user’s profile. A profile has and will remain whatever it has been set to, and a directory of usernames will not be provided.

In that same vein, a username must be unique – which is achieved by the requirement of at least two numeric characters at the end. According to Signal, this “helps keep usernames egalitarian and minimizes spoofing.” And unlike social media handles, usernames can be changed as often as possible or deleted entirely. Finally, users can share a unique QR code or URL as a shortcut to connect with another user or groups of users. 

Example of URL and QR code on Signal

Example of URL and QR code on Signal (Image credit: Signal)

Through this update, Signal continues to serve as one of, if not the most secure messaging platforms. The company reiterates in its blog post that “Signal is built so that we do not know who you message, what you say, which group chats you participate in, who’s in your contact list, and more.” And judging by these new features that will continue to be the case.