In our last edition or messenger services ‘Secure or not too secure’ we looked at XMPP what is considered as an long proven solution for private chat. However, I remain an even bigger of Matrix and have been an Element (former Riot) user for a long time. I've managed to get most people I know to also use Element and the few who didn’t want to make the switch have at least gone as far as Signal!.
Element has been growing in importance over the years and when you look at the app, riotX as was, or now Element it has made quite a jump when it comes to it's UI. In fairness, I was never a fan of the group chats and one on one being separated in there.
So as I'm always on the hunt of something that uses Matrix but maybe has some UI improvements over the Element client and their UI. However, before we dive into this month's review provider, let's just get Matrix out of the way.
Matrix is a decentralized messenger, you can host your instance or join any of the many servers the Matrix network and users provide and E2EE is fully in place. We will cover Matrix in an upcoming article, but here is a quick look we had at it previously.
SchildiChat, unlike Element, is only available on Android. So you have no iOS version, web or desktop version, but it works flawless with any other Matrix app, such as Element.
The developer, SpiritCroc, has forked Element and tweaked up a few things.
- Unified Chat for both Group and one-on-one
- Message bubbles (Similar to WhatsApp) - your chat is on the right, the chat of others on the left.
- SchildiChat also follows the system settings dark/light mode which can of course be individual adjusted and switched off.
I personally had no issues or delays with message notifications, which was a pleasant surprise as I had witnessed these on the original Element app. SchildiChat is also only available on F-Droid which demonstrates that the developer was thinking 'privacy first!' You can also get SchildiChat on the official website and view the source code on GitHub. SchildiChat is not available from the Google Playstore!
The developer says the version on his website supports push notifications vs. the F-Droid version which pulls messages and thereby has a little bit of extra battery drain.
I personally did not witness any delays or aggressive battery drain with the F-Droid version and I like the idea of a store where updates are easily pushed in. Therfore, I use the F-Droid version and would recommend most users to do the same.
The app developer will fork and integrate every update Element pushes out so you should always be on the latest and most secure version.
Matrix is, in my personal opinion, the best and most secure option when it comes to decentralized messengers, and I am always excited when we see new Matrix apps popping up. And while SchildiChat might not be a revolutionary new UI or approach, it is a nice addition to the Matrix ecosystem and a welcome chat app that works well and gets all your chats unified on screen without separating group and one-on-ones.
In our next edition of The 2020 review of Messaging Services 'Secure or not too secure", I'll be taking a long, hard look at Element and the entire Matrix system.
Stay tuned and stay safe!