The Indian government has rolled out a new instant messaging app, Sandes that is available to use for free on Android and iOS smartphones. The app developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), carries features similar to that of WhatsApp, though it has one added advantage. Unlike WhatsApp, Sandes allows users to login via email ID apart from their phone number. However, login by email ID is currently restricted to government officials, though this may change in future once the app attracts a sizeable userbase. The government has not shared any details about the app yet, but the new messaging platform is likely brought to rival international applications amid push for PM Narendra Modi's Digital India and Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).
iOS users can download the Sandes app via Apple App Store, while Android users can get the APK file via GIMS portal. For Apple users, the app is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, and the iPod touch running on at least iOS/iPadOS 12.0. The official app description notes that the messaging platform allows government officials, friends, and families to connect. "Your chats are secured with end to end encryption. The platform supports audio/video calls and multimedia and file sharing," the description adds. Similar to WhatsApp, other features on Sandes include contact sharing, message styling, message tagging, back-up and restore, phone book synchronisation, group chat, chatbots, broadcast messages, and more. At the bottom of the page, users can access Chats, Contacts, Groups, and Account. Similarly, the Contacts tab shows the designation of the individual, provided if the information is given.
As mentioned, login with email ID is restricted to government IDs only and if you try to sign up with a Gmail, Hotmail, or another email account, the app will show domain are not allowed. Currently, only email IDs ending with '@gov.in' can be used. Additionally, as first pointed out by Gadgets 360, Sandes app does not allow users to change their mobile number or email ID once signed up, and users would need to delete the profile to use the new contact info. WhatsApp, in contrast, has a dedicated Change Number feature to let you easily move from an old phone number to a new one — without deleting your profile. The publication adds that the government is working on a second app, called Samvad which means conversation.
Moreover, the Sandes app supports verified accounts for government employees - as per screenshots available on Apple App Store. It also supports chat backups to a user-preferred external location, including email. On the other hand, WhatsApp only allows chat backup on Google Drive (for Android) and iCloud (for iOS). The government had also introduced Made in India, cloud storage service DigiBoxx as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat push. It offers 256GB of free data and rivals Google Drive and Apple iCloud.