Confide (for iPhone) review

Confide uses clever tools and great design to keep your messages safe from snoops and screenshots, but it's not texting-as-usual.
Photo of Confide (for iPhone)
0.00

When it comes to secure messaging, the biggest problem isn’t super spies but users and their irritating habit of taking screenshots. Confide (Free, App Store) is a secure text messaging app with a clean, clever design to defeat the screenshot problem and help keep your messages secure. It’s not for everyone, or every message, but it’s a compelling way to send simple, secure messages.

Swipe to Read
Once you’ve gone through the painless setup process, you’re ready to start sending secret messages with Confide. Composing a message is no problem; just select one or more Confide users as recipients and start typing. You can also enter the email address of people not using Confide, though they’ll have to create an account.

Note that you cannot attach images, video, or audio to your Confide messages. This is a key feature of our Editors’ Choice Wickr, a secure messaging service for Android and iOS.

Reading messages in Confide is a unique experience. The text of an unread message appears as a series of orange rectangles with dots underneath, sort of like a redacted Government document. To read the message, you drag you thumb across the dots, which reveals the corresponding words above. The blocks covering text you’ve already swiped over turn grey, and when you close the message the text is shattered—visually signaling that the message has been deleted.

The benefits of swipe-to-read are immediately recognizable if you try to screenshot a message. Instead of getting all the text, you’ll just see the words that are visible at any given moment. In my attempts to capture a message with my iPhone 5c’s screenshot function, the most I could get was two words.

Better yet, taking a screenshot on your device immediately destroys the message. Plus, the sender receives a push notification letting him or her know you tried to take a screenshot. Blocking the screenshot feature isn’t possible on iOS (it is on Android), but this is the next best thing.

Of course, a determined snoop could simply whip out another phone and shoot a video of the message as it’s revealed on the screen. But as far as a single iOS device goes, Confide does a great job.

Security Situation
The Confide developers explained that their system uses end-to-end encryption, where messages are encrypted on the sender’s device and decrypted on the recipient’s device. The encryption keys are also stored on users’ devices, meaning that investigators would only get unreadable junk if they compelled Confide with a court order to hand over user data. Confide’s developers did not confide their specific method for encrypting messages, however.

I was a bit nervous when I saw the option to connect to Facebook and grant Confide access to my Address Book. Many apps use this to help you find other users on the service, but it’s also an opportunity to grab a bunch of personal data from users. Thankfully, Confide says that they hash your address book and finds other users by comparing those hashes—meaning that Confide can’t examine your friends’ contact info. The developer says that they do not store Facebook or contact data.

Confide’s developers also confirmed that read messages are immediately deleted from your device and their servers. Unread messages have a 30-day lifespan on Confide’s servers as well. It seems developers have learned from Snapchat’s mistakes.

Confide With Confidence
I was really impressed with Confide’s design, which effectively marries form and function. The slick interface was simple to use, and whole process of swiping to read is as clever as it is visually appealing. While it’s not a complete copy-proof solution, it’s the closest I’ve seen on iOS.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t attach media with Confide, but the app focuses on text which it handles quite well. The lack of a block list, however, is a major oversight considering it’s a standard feature among messaging services. Also, as clever as swipe-to-read is, it’s difficult to grasp longer messages—a problem compounded by their being deleted upon reading.

That said, the innovative design of Confide is certainly intriguing. If you’ve got small chunks of private information that you need to share off-the-record, consider Confide. If you want a secure texting service that you can use for everything, look at Wickr.

Specifications
Type Business, Personal

Verdict
Confide uses clever tools and great design to keep your messages safe from snoops and screenshots, but it's not texting-as-usual.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc