At the time, it seemed fairly hopeless for RCS to become some kind of iMessage for Android. And our doubts are still in place, but thankfully, we finally have some good news for Messages and the future of RCS, as it seems Google has made one final push for RCS to become the success they foresaw a full year ago. When we recapped our picks for SMS apps in 2018, Google’s plans for the future of messaging on Android became clear. Now a year out from their announcement, Google is slowly but surely making improvements to Messages, along with killing off Allo and building some of its ideas into their new flagship SMS/RCS app. Still, we have a long way to go before Messages finally can compete with the likes of WhatsApp and iMessage.
In a world rife with messenger apps, WhatsApp is among the most successful, boasting an enormous and dedicated user base. Add to that an integrated web version that lets users take their chats to the desktop. Recently, this app was bolstered by encrypted messaging provided by the minds behind Signal. It might just be the largest secure messaging service out there. Android App
Let’s start by looking at the options under “Customize Look,” which allow you change basically everything within the app outside of the inbox layout (and to be fair, what else would you change about it?). Textra uses a theme engine to allow you to pick the main color of your app, along with a secondary accent color. You can match these colors as you see fit, with your bubble colors designed to match them. There are an endless amount of possibilities to choose from here, and the same goes for choosing the combination of your sent and received bubble colors (which, of course, you can set to match your theme). Each contact thread can be customized as well, but the easiest option to auto-shuffle the colors of your friends is to enable auto-theming contacts. New Droid Apps
If you’re looking for a text messaging app that will work on nearly every platform (PC included), Pulse SMS is a great choice. You can use your phone number and text from your PC or tablet (for $0.99 per month). The app also has a conversation back-up tool and the ability to blacklist certain numbers. You can give individual conversations custom themes as well. Android App
At first, Snapchat was a little dangerous, popular with the hip and the young, and utterly baffling to everyone else. With Snapchat, you quickly snap and exchange photos with one or several friends. The app also supports video snaps, as well as voice and video calling. The catch is that whatever you send will vanish after a few seconds. It's just a fun and ephemeral way to share the world around you. New updates make the service much easier to use, let you save old snaps, and build ongoing public stories. The more things change, the more they just turn into Facebook. Droid Apps
Runtastic is a smartphone staple, with a simple interface that doesn’t sacrifice advanced features. The no-frills app uses your smartphone’s sensors to track metrics, such as your distance and relative pace, as well as calories burned and your heart rate. A few extra features, such as 3D mapping and a workout diary, only complement the app’s wearable integration.
Presenting your iOS-diehard friends the same question will likely result in the same amount of varied answers, but more than anything, you’ll likely hear the same word repeated time and time again: iMessage. Apple’s messaging app is exclusive to their own devices running iOS or MacOS, and it’s one of the most popular instant messaging clients in the world today, particularly in North America. While Android has no shortage of messaging clients, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Google’s own Allo chat service, there’s no doubt that iMessage is one of the best messaging experiences you can have on the market today, and people are naturally drawn to the app like a social network.
It’s the customization options we need to spend the bulk of our review discussing, because they’re plentiful. Customize is split into two subcategories, “Look” and “Notifications,” each of which allow you to change the appearance of your texting experience. You can customize as much or as little as you want, though if you aren’t one to change the appearance of your applications, you might be happier in the long run with our runner-up application.
The big risk is malware. In our Android app security basics article, we recommended sticking to Google Play and avoiding third-party app stores. The security policy on different Android app stores will vary; some will perform similar safety checks to Google, while others won’t. If you are going to take the risk, then consider installing one of the top Android security apps first.
Overall, we really like Messages. If and when RCS becomes a real standard, it has a solid chance of actually being our top pick for messaging. Unfortunately, it remains a slight hope, one we’ve wanted for a full year now. As usual, carriers continue to slow down progress in this path, making it impossible for RCS to actually become a true feature. Until then, the customization options in Textra put it over the top, but we maintain hope that someday, Messages will be a must-have app on Android. Droid Apps
For most people, Textra is our go-to recommendation for messaging apps, and it’s easy to see why. This is developer Delicious’s second crack at an SMS application, after originally developing ChompSMS in 2010 for Android 2.x. At its core, Textra is built on the same ideas as Chomp, providing a similar visual style to the current version of ChompSMS, an app that is still developed side by side with Textra today. Textra is a simple, clean messaging app that is as intuitive as Google’s own messaging platform, while giving power users everything they could want in customization options. Android App
Microsoft Launcher replaces the company's Arrow Launcher and takes on a Windows 10-style transparency. It replaces Google Now with a useful and customizable feed for quick access to recent apps, events, and frequently contacted people. The main app list can be organized horizontally or vertically and includes an elegant alphabetical scrollbar for reaching apps quickly. Performance is just as smooth as the stock Pixel Launcher and it doesn't affect the use of Google Assistant, though of course, Cortana would feel more at home as your voice assistant. New Droid Apps
Mood Messenger is one of the youngest apps on our list. It doesn’t have a million and a half features, but that’s one of the nice things about it. Mood Messenger keeps things simple while still offering the key features you’ll want. Mood Messenger users can also send messages to each other without using SMS. The app is completely free with no in-app purchases. Droid App