Since joining the Android family I’ve cycled through multiple programs for multiple functions. Each time I try a Web browser, for example, I always try to find another to see if it has that little extra something the current one lacks. I have been through several SMS clients, each with noticeable advantages and disadvantages. In this article, I’ve compiled five of my favourites, each accompanied by a short review.
My favourite theme on the left, and an example of the default theme on the Application center to the right.
Up till recently this was my SMS application of choice. GoSMS is a great example of both performance and features. Although it is not the fastest SMS application I’ve used, it is highly customisable with many themes and settings to adjust.
One thing I love to have in SMS applications is pop-up windows. These display any messages as you receive them, offer a window for your reply, and then disappear once you’re done with them. This allows you to respond to texts without switching to another application and disrupting what you were doing. I’ve noticed that most of the pop-up notifications other messengers offer are very minimalistic – just a text box to reply in, along with buttons for ‘Delete’, ‘Forward’, or ‘Close’. GoSMS takes this much much further, and offers a variety of additional features, my favourite being the ‘ToDo’ button, which closes the popup window, but marks the message as unread so that a notification remains.
As you can see in the screenshot there is an Application Center built in, offering you features such as Theme Maker and Private Box. On top of all this, GoSMS has a wide variety of plugins for things like Emoji emoticons and an Instant Messenger.
GoSMS also features easy-to-use message scheduling, and a ‘night mode’ which adjusts the hue, saturation and coloration of the application to better suit use in a dark environment, and to be gentle on the eyes.
The Conversation and Settings windows. Handcent does adverts at the bottom of configuration menus.
Handcent has many superficial similarities to GoSMS. In fact, the layout is nearly identical – therefore Handcent is also a clean and uncluttered application. The GoSMS screenshot at the top of the article shows the Dark Theme I chose; the default color scheme is even more similar to Handcent’s.
Also just like GoSMS, Handcent features popup notifications for your incoming messages. However, Handcent is not as generous with the features offered in the popup; you get a text box and a couple of action buttons, but nowhere near the fancy features GoSMS offers.
Not so much a downside but a point worth mentioning is that Handcent puts advertisements in their programs. They don’t show up when you browse your messages, but they do appear when you delve into a settings page, as seen in the above screenshot. (I have chosen a decent advert to show you too, and not the ones advertising single women in my area.) You can remove the adverts by purchasing a license from Handcent; the option is at the bottom of the settings page.
Another similarity Handcent has with GoSMS, which is different to most other SMS apps, is the depth to which you can customise its appearance. Rather than just applying a theme, you get to tweak and adjust every individual thing, such as bubble style and colour, background colour, button style, and so forth.
Default Android Messenger
Price: Free Developer: Google
Everything is simple, but that also makes things look rather untidy.
Simply called ‘Messaging’, for those of you who run a barebones manufacturer ROM or something like CyanogenMod. This is essentially the most minimalistic and barebones application of all: the stock Android messaging app.
The most notable part of the default messenger is its speed. With GoSMS you tap a contact name and wait up to a second for your messages to appear on the screen. The Android messenger has no delay whatsoever; tap a name and the conversation history is instantly there, regardless of whether the conversation is 5 or 5000 messages long.
Another aspect that sets Android Messenger apart is how it provides far more screen real-estate, and so tries to cram more into the view. Compare the screenshot of ChompSMS below to the one above and you will see the difference. Unfortunately, this does make things look a little messy.
One thing that Android Messenger does lack is ‘Extras’. There aren’t any Emoji plugins – or plugins of any kind that I am aware of. This would serve as a deterrent if Emoticons are something you enjoy, or if you enjoy your messages being presented with a bit of colour or other eyecandy.
Everything is well laid out, and pleasant to look at!
The scrolling is perhaps this applications best point to remark on because it is perfectly smooth. It irritates me when applications which are meant to scroll jump and jitter their way down the page. Not with ChompSMS though: messages glide over the screen perfectly.
One thing I love in ChompSMS is automatic emoticon association. Unlike in other applications, the emoticons are not bigger than the actual text, nor outlandish. They just sit in your messages at the same height as letters, and are a discreet illustration. Points for that!
I also like how conversation threads are listed on the homescreen. Take a look at the messages I got from Chomp and Google in the screenshot above. The contact name is bold, with the last message printed clearly underneath, the message time is small and blue. When compared to the Android Messenger above, ChompSMS just comes across as neater and attractive compared to all these other applications except, perhaps, for GoSMS.
It’s also worth mentioning that Chomp is fast too, with a small loading time for some of my larger message threads.
As you can see, Pansi appears simple, but it has plenty of great features if you delve into the settings.
I only recently discovered Pansi SMS. I had never heard of before, and discovered it when looking for SMS applications to include in this roundup.
When you install Pansi SMS, you receive the best ‘First Time Customization’ runthrough I have ever experienced. I won’t go into detail, but it will make you smile. After the little setup you are ready to start messaging. I then found that when they say ‘optimised for speed’ they are not joking. Pansi feels faster than all the aforementioned applications.
Pansi’s settings also reveal a vast selection of further customisations and tools you can use, so it isn’t lacking on that front. SMS Scheduling is very well done – as with GoSMS and Handcent – and I wasn’t expecting it from such an apparently minimalistic application.
There are also many themes and emoji plugins available on the Android Market, so customisation fans will feel right at home.
Popup notifications are included here too, but a big shame with Pansi (and something I miss from GoSMS) is that you cannot write a message reply within the popup; you have to tap ‘Reply’ and then wait for the entire application to load. GoSMS was good at minimising any interruptions with a quick way to reply to people and carry on exactly where you were.
A word of advice, don’t have GoSMS and Pansi running on your phone at the same time, they conflict and duplicate each message you receive.
So Which Is Best?
As with all comparisons like this, it depends on what you seek from a messaging application. If you seek instantaneous response (or have a slow phone) then use Android Messaging, Chomp or Pansi. If you prefer extras like good popup notifications and plugin availability, you should turn your attention to GoSMS and Handcent.
However if I am to select a winner out of these SMS applications, it has got to be Pansi. I didn’t even know about it until recently but I love it already. It’s probably not for everyone, but I encourage you to try it.