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Swadeshi Sandes: India's WhatsApp alternative has a long way to go

Pegged to be India's alternate to popular messaging app WhatsApp, Sandes has a long way to go. With not much to offer, the app has bugs and often crashes on Android phones

twitter-logoNidhi Singal | February 19, 2021 | Updated 00:47 IST
Swadeshi Sandes: India's WhatsApp alternative has a long way to go

Designed on the lines of Whatsapp by the National Informatics Centre, Sandes is hailed to be India's messaging platform. It's claimed to be a free and secure instant messaging platform to connect with government officials, family, and friends for free. The platform supports audio/video calls, multimedia and file sharing. Other features include contact sharing, message styling, message gagging, backup and restore, phone book synchronisation, group chat, chatbots, broadcast messages and more. All chats are claimed to be secured with end to end encryption. Sandes is available to download for Android and iOS devices. Although the app is listed on Apple App Store (as apps can only be downloaded from the store), it is not yet live on Play Store for Android devices. One has to visit https://www.gims.gov.in/dash/dlink to download the .apk file. As per the standard procedure, Android smartphone prompts risks while downloading a .apk file. For iOS, users can simply search for Sandes in the App Store and download the app.

However, a lot of confusion surrounds Sandes. The weblink of the Sandes webpage is www.gims.nic.in. GIMS here stands for Government Instant Messaging System, which also happened to be the name of the platform earlier. Business Today also spotted an old and updated FAQ document stating details about the app. Both the documents were similar with GIMS replaced with Sandes in the v2.0.x of the document dated December 11, 2020 (the webpage is showing error now).

Although reports suggest that the app to be restricted for government employees, the updated FAQ stated the app can be used by an individual (basis invitation). Even Sandes' description on the App Store states the app to be available for official or casual use for any Government employee as well as individuals. We were able to download the app and ever login using a mobile number. However, we were not able to use the app.

While the clarity is awaited on the above stated, the experience of using Sandes wasn't pleasant. Sandes app accepts registration through mobile number or an email account. I was able to register using my mobile number but it failed to register an account using an email. It's likely that the app only supports Government of India's email ids because when we tried to register using Gmail and even the company's official email id, the app instantly prompted not supported. I tried using a Yahoo account, Hotmail amongst others but it wasn't of any use. When logged in using the mobile number, the app was almost unresponsive. I wasn't able to create a new message or access contacts. Tapping on chats, groups and settings registered no response. We installed the app on two different Android phones hoping this to be a device compatibly issue but it wasn't the case. The app crashed a few times as well.

At the moment, Swades does not allow users to change their mobile number on the app. In case of change of mobile number, it recommends the user to create a new profile with the latest mobile number on the App again. There is no clarity on what would happen to the old account and whether the user will be able to delete account before switching.

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