Facebook Messenger‘s killer feature, Chat Heads, make it a joy to use, but what if you could use Chat Heads for your SMS messaging? That’s the idea proposed by HoverChat, the SMS replacement app formerly known as Ninja SMS.
There are some solid alternative SMS apps for Android out there, but HoverChat [No Longer Available] is the only one to do Chat Heads right. If you text a lot, you know the annoyances of leaving the app you’re in every time you receive a text, but with HoverChat, you never have to leave your current app. It makes texting a breeze.
Chat Heads work differently in HoverChat compared to Facebook Messenger. The expanded Chat Head occupies just a small square of the screen, rather than nearly the entire screen as Messenger’s Chat Heads do. The options button in the top right drops down three more options: call the person, open in the HoverChat app, and turn on/off transparency.
Tapping the contact’s picture to the left will minimize it down to a circle, which you can then place anywhere on your screen while you navigate your phone normally. Each contact photo can be placed and opened separately, another departure from Messenger’s style.
The only issues I have here are that the Chat Heads aren’t forced to be at the left or right side of the screen like in Messenger, which has a nice flicking motion for moving Chat Heads, and it’s harder to use one-handed than Messenger. Since you can minimize the window in Messenger by swiping up, it can be easier than reaching across to the left side of the screen to tap the contact photo on HoverChat.
When you’re not in the mood for Chat Heads, though, HoverChat works like any other SMS app. It has a nice, simple design with a list of your messages and pullout menu on the left for settings.
If you don’t already sync your friends’ Facebook profile pictures with their contacts, HoverChat will do that for you. As you can see below, the theme is customizable too, which we’ll dig into in a moment.
HoverChat has full support for all the regular emoji, as well as the emojis that come with Google Hangouts, as shown above. At any time, you can pop out the current conversation into a Chat Head with the button in the upper right.
While it can’t schedule your SMS messages to be sent later, HoverChat does have a decent level of customization abilities. There is a HoverChat Store for finding new themes, Hover head shapes, and fonts. There is a good selection of free options, and the paid ones only cost $1.
You can also personalize which contacts actually appear as Chat Heads, and you can personalize each contact: the shape of the Hover head, custom notifications, and if your messages are encrypted or not. Privacy concerns have many people searching for a new messaging app, and if both users have HoverChat installed, you can send encrypted messages.
The theme selection is limited, but I still love the level of customization that it offers, and we can only hope that it continues to grow in the future.
SMS messaging remains a major form of communication for many of us — you can even send SMS messages online for free now — and Chat Heads are such a useful feature in the age of smartphones with 5-inch screens. If you’re tired of your default SMS app, I fully recommend HoverChat.
What do you think of this SMS app? Any others out there you’d like to recommend? Let us know in the comments!