One of the great advantages of having an Android phone is being able to customize to your heart’s content, and that includes everything from getting a new launcher to replacing your SMS app. If your stock SMS app doesn’t do everything you want it to, or you just want to try something new, you should give one of these a try.
As you can see above, you can attach all kinds of things to your messages from regular photos and videos to doodles, files, or even a greeting card. Regular photos and videos will be sent as MMS, but larger files or doodles will be sent as a link that the other person can open, unless they are using GO SMS Pro too.
If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do with texting, it’s probably available with GO SMS Pro.
A pop-up reply box, common in many texting apps, is available here as well, but it’s much more customizable and can even appear as a Chat Head-like icon in the corner of your screen to be less invasive. A navigation menu also slides out from the left side, and from there you can access a few of its strongest features: an SMS blocker, Security Lock, scheduled text messages, a backup service, and themes.
While Security Lock should keep prying eyes from checking on your text messages, remember that text messages can still be accessed by other texting apps. So to fully protect yourself, you’ll want to hide or disable your default messaging app and be careful not to let anyone download a new one.
There are so many themes available for this app, you’ll never run out of options, but they will cost you. Access to all the themes is $18.99, and unlocking the extra functions and removing ads costs $4.99, or you can purchase them together for $19.99. It isn’t cheap, but GO Pro has the best theme selection of all these texting apps.
Who should use it? Those who want a relatively clean interface and an abundance of features.
Up next is another feature-full app: Handcent SMS. This app has an older look to it and a swipe-to-the-side animation that makes it look as if the whole app is on a cube. With many of the same features of GO Pro, it’s mainly differentiated by its clunkier, older interface and the fact that its completely free.
While Handcent has an options button in the top right, it also has a hidden menu for some reason that brings up a completely different set of options; this menu can be accessed by your capacitive options button or should appear on your navigation bar if you don’t have capacitive buttons. When most apps are moving to incorporate the menu button into their interface to make it more visible, Handcent has both visible and hidden menu buttons.
Like GO SMS Pro, there are too many features here to count. Send your location, an audio clip, or personalize the chat bubbles and backgrounds colors for each individual message thread.
You will need a Handcent account to use nearly any of the features; however, this account means that you never have to pay for Handcent. While supported by ads, all the features are available in the free version of the app, and there is no way to pay to remove the ads.
Who should buy it? Those who want a completely free, full-featured app, and don’t mind ads and a bit of a tacky interface.
chomp SMS manages to weed out a lot of the unnecessary features of the previous two apps and presents you with a clean, basic app that still holds a lot of functionality if you go digging.
Buried in the settings you can find options to change the color of the LED notification, set a password to protect the app, or change the theme. While there are several apps for scheduling SMS messages to be sent, chomp SMS has this feature built in, just like GO SMS Pro.
The themes are pretty lacking in chomp SMS, though — there are only 5 in total — but you can customize it down to the shape and color of the speech bubbles so that you have it just the way you like it.
chomp SMS manages to keep things simple while also allowing for customization if you want it. It strikes a good balance in between minimalist and feature-packed, and getting rid of ads only costs $2.49 via in in-app purchase.
The biggest difference in GO Pro SMS, Handcent, and chomp SMS is really the price. While all have free versions, GO Pro is the most expensive, chomp is cheaper, and Handcent is completely free.
Who should use it? Those who want key features and a nice, customizable interface.
Brought to you by the same people who made chomp SMS, Textra is intended to be a stripped down, simplified, faster version of chomp. Where chomp allows you to customize and change every tiny detail, Textra is less customizable but far simpler and faster.
Textra is perfect if you just want to install an SMS app and forget that it’s there. There are no ads, no paid version, and the entire settings menu is presented in one clean list that is super easy to go through.
There are some nice improvements from chomp as well; for instance, when in a conversation, you can swipe in the from the right to see the timestamps for every message. It’s a small change, but it’s intuitive, slick, and keeps the timestamps out of the way until you need them.
You can switch between a light and a dark pattern and also customize the bubble colors and notifications minimally, but Textra is really just meant to blend into the background and become a quiet SMS app.
Who should use it? Minimalists who just want a basic, fast SMS app.
Departing from the basic texting app format is hello sms, which ditches not only capital letters but also a lot of what people associate with texting apps. You switch between conversations from a tabbed interface on the left, rather than jumping from a list of all your conversations to a specific message thread, and there aren’t any colorful message bubbles, just simple blacks, whites, and greys.
hello sms keeps things simple, having even fewer customization options than Textra. You can switch between night mode (black background, white text) and day mode (white background, black text), turn on/off in-app sounds, and adjust how notifications appear, but that’s it.
Contact pictures are displayed along the left side in small circles, and if there isn’t a photo, the app uses the person’s initials instead. It’s wonderfully simple, takes advantage of the actionable notifications found in Android 4.2+, and is a fresh take on texting. Plus, it has no ads, and no in-app purchases.
Who should use it? Those who want a brand new and minimalist interface for free.
Those on newer versions of Android have no doubt run into Google’s nearly ubiquitous card-style user interface. It’s present in Google Now, Hangouts, Google+, and many other Google apps. If you love the look, but don’t want to use Hangouts as your default SMS app, that’s where Now SMS comes into play.
Now SMS manages to blend the traditional messaging app style in with the card interface, departing from Hangout’s pull-out menu from the left. It looks nice and feels right at home on Android.
Unfortunately, nearly all of the cool features, like theming, popup messages, and reminders, are only available in the premium version through an in-app purchase of $2.02. Still, it’s a low price for an app that works well and has a fair level of customization.
Who should buy it? Those who love Google’s card-style user interface.
For texting on your phone, these apps are great, but don’t forget that you can also text from your tablet or PC.
Texting isn’t the most secure form of communicating, and it could be dying out soon with the prevalence of more secure messaging apps, but for now it’s still so widely used that you’ll probably be making good use of your new SMS app.
Which of these apps is your favorite? Or do you have a different SMS app that you prefer? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credit: Flickr/Michele Ursino