If you don’t like the default text messaging app on your Android device, it’s super easy to change! There are lots of great alternatives out there, and thanks to the customizable nature of Android, it’s simple to switch over.
Let’s take a look at six of the best alternative SMS apps options out there.
(Note: If you’re looking to send messages over the internet rather than through SMS, check out this breakdown of the best messaging apps.)
Now, this one may or may not be an alternative app for you. That’s because certain Android device ship with Messenger as the default text messaging app, like Motorola devices or the Google Pixel.
However, lots of other manufacturers (like Samsung, LG, and HTC) tweak Android by installing their own proprietary text messaging apps. If that’s the boat you’re in, you might want to try out Messenger.
It’s not the most customizable texting app out there, but it is as simple and stable as they come. It randomly assigns a new color to every text conversation and even has some support for stickers. But that’s about it. Of course there are no ads or in-app purchases. This app is mostly for people who want something that just works.
Download: Google Messenger (Free)
Pulse is an amazing blend of customizability and simplicity. You get all of the best features here alongside a gorgeous Material Design look.
You can change the look of the message bubbles, set custom colors for the entire app or for individual conversations, schedule text messages, blacklist numbers, archive conversations, and delay sending if you want to be able to cancel a few seconds after sending.
And that’s the just the free version (which doesn’t even have ads). With an in-app purchase, you can send and receive messages from a variety of other platforms. Pulse has a Chrome app, Chrome extension, Web messenger, Firefox add-on, Android TV app, Android tablet app, and Android Wear app. If your iPhone-loving friends ever brag about iMessage letting them text on their Mac, just tell them about Pulse.
That service costs $10.99 for a lifetime pass, or you can subscribe monthly: $0.99 for 1 month, $1.99 for 3 months, or $5.99 for 1 year. But even without the messaging from anywhere functionality, it’s still a solid full-featured messaging app.
Download: Pulse SMS (Free)
Visit: Pulse SMS Website
QKSMS is the open-source app for all the folks out there who cherish open-source technology. It’s also dead simple. All of the options are hidden behind the three-dot icon in the upper right. You could leave it alone and just have a plain-but-effective messaging app, or you could dig into the settings and tweak the theme, colors, bubble style, and a bunch of other options.
And you can edit all of these things on a per-conversation basis as well. It’s a quick, easy, yet powerful open-source app. There are no ads or in-app purchases (though you can donate in the app if you’re feeling generous). What’s not to love?
Download: QKSMS (Free)
Textra has been around for awhile now, but it has evolved gracefully. It includes the Textra Bot if you want to ask it some questions about the app, but aside from that, it offers tons of customization features in a speedy package. You can even edit the emoji style in the app so that you can have iOS-style emojis.
You can customize conversations individually or even batch edit multiple conversations at once. If you want, you can call people directly from the texting screen or skim through all the photos and videos you’ve sent to each other. There’s not much you can’t do with Textra.
Despite seeming like a completely free and ad-free app, Textra actually starts you off on a 14-day ad-free trial. After that, you can either continue with ads or upgrade to Pro for a one-time payment of $2.99.
Download: Textra (Free)
chomp SMS is brought to you by the same folks who made Textra. Why they made two very similar texting apps is anyone’s guess, but chomp SMS is also a great choice. There’s no Textra Bot, but there’s just about all the other features: themes, emoji styles, individual conversation editing, scheduled messages, a blacklist, and more.
Just like with Textra, at some point, chomp SMS will start showing ads or ask you to pay a small in-app purchase to continue without ads.
Download: chomp SMS (Free)
Mood Messenger is certainly the most unique of the bunch. Themes go wild in Mood, with the default theme currently being very winter-styled. The settings menu is colorful and bubbly, and the keyboard has animated iOS-style emojis. It’s an eclectic and unique experience that isn’t for everyone, but it will be just right for some folks.
There are so many themes to choose from, you can hide some messages in a private box, there are small Chat Head-like notifications, it supports in-line GIFs and YouTube videos, and it’s just as customizable as all the other apps on this list.
And there are no ads or in-app purchases. For a quirky, super-customizable messaging app, choose Mood Messenger.
Download: Mood Messenger (Free)
Which Is the Best?
The SMS messaging app that works best for you might not work best for someone else, and most of these offer similar customization abilities anyway. I’d recommend Google Messenger for the person who doesn’t need any fancy features, QKSMS for the open-source enthusiastics, Mood Messenger if you want tons of themes and animations, and Pulse for everyone else.
While Textra and chomp SMS used to be some of the best texting apps out there, it’s hard to justify their cost when there are superior free options available. Plus, Pulse’s texting from anywhere feature is unmatched on this list (normally you need a separate app like MightyText for that).
No matter which app you pick, make sure you stay safe while you text and walk.
Which is your favorite? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below!
Originally written by Riley J. Dennis on April 8th, 2014.