Text messaging – or SMS – is one of the most fundamental functions on any mobile device. Over the last few years, it has arguably taken over voice calling as the single most used feature on a phone. Sure, there have been numerous threats from internet-based multimedia messaging apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Line and more, but the sheer ubiquity of good ol’ SMS text messages has been hard to beat and has kept the technology alive and kicking.
Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of good dedicated options when it comes to SMS apps on Android. A few stalwarts like Handcent SMS and Go SMS Pro aside, competition has been pretty scarce in this arena. That’s why it’s exciting to see a new contender in Sliding Messaging. I took the app for a spin to check how it fared against Go SMS Pro – which is what I’ve been using for years now. Here’s what I found.
My first impression of the app was that it is the only SMS app – other than the stock Android one – that comes with the new Android Holo look. Everything is neat and clean with blue lines nicely accenting the white interface. There’s nothing jazzy here but just a plain, simple interface that quickly gets out of the way.
The default view in the app is your last conversation.
The other big difference from all other SMS apps is that the default view is not a list of conversations. Instead, it takes you directly to the last used conversation. This may seem weird at first, but it feels perfectly logical since you’re most likely to continue the last chat, so you can simply respond to the last message rather than start by opening the chat from the top of a list.
Swiping left from the middle of the screen on a conversation brings up the next conversation by chronology, letting you quickly slide through all your text chats quickly. Hence the name Sliding Messaging, I guess. Since I typically participate in a set of 3-4 conversations at any given time, this ability to quickly get to the meat of each conversation with a couple of slides makes a ton of sense.
Swiping from the sides gives you the list of conversations and the new message panel
Swiping in from the very left edge of the screen brings up the complete list of conversations so you can quickly get to an older thread. On the other hand, if you swipe in from the right edge, you can start composing a new message. Although this works fine on phones with bigger screens, it can easily get frustrating on smaller screens where you need to be precise with where you swipe from. When trying it on my wife’s Optimus One, I kept opening up the new message sidebar every time I tried to slide between conversations.
Hits and Some Misses
The app has very little in terms of bells and whistles. A Call button at the top of each conversation if you think text is just not cutting it. Tapping the avatar of a friend opens up a floating panel with their phone numbers, e-mail IDs, Google+ and WhatsApp info in a – you guessed it – set of sliding tabs so you can quickly get in touch with them in other ways. There are also a bunch of very basic themes in case you don’t like the white & blue look. If you want even more control, the $0.99 Sliding Messaging Theme Engine will let you fine tune the design as much as you want.
The tabbed info panel appears when you tap a contact’s photo
On the downside, the app doesn’t always work as smoothly as it should. It can stutter on older devices, although recent updates have fixed the performance issues to an extent. There is also not much in terms of features, not even the ability to archive and categorize messages. Sure, this reduces bloat and keeps the app simple and fast, but some users may find it a bit lacking.
The expandable notification shade and new message pop-up
The notifications popup that lets you reply to a message from a floating window is great when it works, but it simply doesn’t if you have some other SMS apps already installed. I also love how the app uses expandable notifications to let you reply, mark as read or delete messages right from the notifications shade, but again getting it to work involves removing other SMS apps.
There is a $0.99 Pro version of the app that brings some extra features to the table like picture and group messaging, custom background images for conversations and more. Personally I didn’t find anything I would use there, so I’m going to stick with the free version for now.
I’ve not yet made up my mind on whether Sliding Messaging is good enough for me to get rid of Go SMS Pro yet. I like the latter, but I have to admit I’ve been getting exceedingly irritated by how bloated it has become and its continuous nagging for me to pay for themes and other fluff. Sliding Messaging is clean, simple and does just a few things very well.