If you’re looking for more options, however, you’ll need a third-party SMS app. Fortunately, there are several great alternatives to the stock messaging app available, and best of all, they’re free.
If you’re looking for a simple, quick SMS app that can replace the default app, chompSMS may be your best bet. This app in default form comes bare-bones, lacking even the portraits of the people you’re texting (the app does fully support this, but it’s not turned on by default). The result is a quick SMS experience that should work well on most Android phones.
Some of chompSMS’s most interesting features include support for sending SMS via what is called “SMS credits” which can be purchased through the app. This makes it possible to buy additional text messaging beyond what your carrier’s plan allows. The app also has integrated support for a service called TextFreak, which sends texts using your data plan instead of counting them against your plan’s text message allotment.
My main gripe with chompSMS is the very obvious ad support. While I have nothing against developers getting paid, it is rather distracting considering the nature of the app. I also would like to see security via PIN – right now, it only offers security via a touch pattern.
chompSMS requires Android 1.5 or newer.
Despite the Pro name, which usually indicates a paid app, Go SMS Pro is entirely free and is one of the best looking SMS apps available anywhere. This is thanks to clear, easy to use theming support that is paired with customization that offers a live preview (this feature is also found on chompSMS and Handcent, to be fair). While you can trick out the other apps here, Go SMS Pro is the one I found easiest to customize. Within a few minutes I had downloaded a cool theme that looks great.
There’s plenty of features to be found here, including a message scheduler, a Facebook chat plugin and security via both PIN and pattern input. I also found the ability to swipe between different messaging screens – the folders, messages and plugins sections – refreshing. Why don’t more SMS apps do this?
Clarity is the only problem I found with Go SMS Pro. The interface buttons at the bottom aren’t self-explanatory and a bit small. The menu options are also clunky and confusing. These issues are minor, however – overall, Go SMS Pro is a good choice.
Go SMS Pro requires Android 1.6 or newer.
I’ve saved what is, in my opinion, the best for last. That’s not to say everyone will prefer Handcent, but it is the SMS app I’ve chosen to use on my own Android phone.
The interface of Handcent provides an excellent compromise between beauty and simplicity. Although the basic theme is based off the iPhone, it’s not exactly identical, and it does a good job of walking the line between performance and functionality. The menu options, when displayed, are sensible and easy to navigate. There are interface buttons on the messaging menu, but I found them more intuitive, and they’re slightly larger which makes them easier to use.
Handcent also has a lot of features including built-in skins, security via PIN or pattern, and a great message scheduler. In addition to this, it’s possible to access “Handcent services” – special features including e-cards, group SMS and an online inbox to which you can save messages.
Handcent requires Android 1.5 or newer.
All of these SMS apps are quite popular and will serve users well. Generally speaking, I’ve found them to be better than the default apps that come with most Android phones. As usual, feel free to weigh in if you have a favorite app that’s not listed here!