Signal Allows Switching Phone Numbers

I’ve expressed my frustration with Signal’s lack of support to change phone number recently. Maybe they’ve heard me, because only three days later they announced this very feature. You can now switch a phone number on Signal.

Thanks to an anonymous commenter to the post mentioned above, I’ve learned about this today. I immediately tested changing my Signal phone number, which is a dead Google Voice number I created on the fly, and successfully changed it to a working phone number.

There’s no need to have access to the old phone number. You just need to provide the number you used to have and the number you now have. Signal will send you a code in an SMS to the new number, and that’s it.

I’m not sure how it works behind the scenes, but I’m guessing that as long as you have access to your active Signal database, it can authenticate against Signal servers and allow a phone number change; after all, Signal doesn’t need the phone number, it’s just another piece of metadata associated with your account.

The commenter on the old post has a good point: Signal is meant to be ephemeral, meaning, it’s not meant to be a place to save data. You should think of Signal (as well as any other messaging app for that matter) as an information transport service, much like a train. Your phone is one station, your friend’s phone is another station, and Signal is the train. Once the information is in the station, it’s up to you if you want to take it somewhere else where it can stay, but it shouldn’t stay there.

Chats, media, files - whatever you send in Signal that is meant to be saved should be saved out of the app.

Still, this new feature means that if you lose access to your old phone number, you don’t have to give up your Signal account. This is a good thing.

There’s also another integrated benefit in my case: since I use Signal on a live number now, I can use it as my texting (SMS) application instead of relying on yet another messaging app. While SMS messages sent from Signal to another phone’s SMS application (be it iMessages or whatever have you) are not encrypted, at least that allows me to use Signal without begging the other person to download and use Signal so I can use it with them. I can try to convince them to be more private, as I should, but at least all my chats will be in one place.