A year ago, we wrote about Google’s efforts to use Messages (formerly both Google Messages and Android Messages) as a way to make implement support for RCS, or rich-communication services, into Android. At the time, we detailed the benefits of RCS—namely, it’s broad openness for support and the fact that RCS essentially works like iMessage between two devices that both feature the standard. We were, nevertheless, hesitant to call it the future of messaging on Android. In April of 2017, RCS was only supported by Sprint, with T-Mobile and AT&T both operating their own non-standard forks of RCS and Verizon sticking to pushing their Messages+ software. Likewise, support for the standard was mixed among Android manufacturers; LG and Motorola both had signed onto the plan, but Samsung had decided against joining the RCS alliance. Android App
Generally speaking, we were less impressed with the app’s messaging thread display. It doesn’t look bad, but it is a bit dated when compared to most of the other apps on this list. The bubble shapes, in particular, don’t feel designed for 2018, though thankfully these can be customized in the YAATA menu to make them look cleaner and crisper. Sending a text with just emoji makes them increase in size, and scrolling through large group messages caused some display lag that made the app difficult to use. One thing that was pretty great: the backdrops of each messaging thread use alternating shades of grey to designate different days for each message, making it easy to see when specific messages were sent in the thread. Android App
Textra is an excellent alternative to Messages on Android. The app includes tons of visual customization options that you won't find with the stock messaging app, including custom contact colors, text bubble styles, and notification icons. Additionally, you get extra features such as text scheduling, the ability to blacklist contacts, and the option to rename group conversations. Textra also has excellent light and dark modes. Droid Apps
Generally speaking, we were less impressed with the app’s messaging thread display. It doesn’t look bad, but it is a bit dated when compared to most of the other apps on this list. The bubble shapes, in particular, don’t feel designed for 2018, though thankfully these can be customized in the YAATA menu to make them look cleaner and crisper. Sending a text with just emoji makes them increase in size, and scrolling through large group messages caused some display lag that made the app difficult to use. One thing that was pretty great: the backdrops of each messaging thread use alternating shades of grey to designate different days for each message, making it easy to see when specific messages were sent in the thread. Android App
Ben Moore is an Analyst for PCMag's software team. He has previously written for Laptop Mag, Neowin.net, and Tom's Guide. Ben holds a degree in New Media and Digital Design from Fordham University at Lincoln Center, where he served as the Editor-in-Chief of The Observer, the student-run newspaper. He spends his free time taking photos and reading b... See Full Bio New Droid Apps
Google Photos puts the search giant's powerful (and sometimes creepy) image magic into your phone. It can identify faces, even as they age over decades, as well as animals, places, or objects. You can also search for photos from specific dates or locations. The impressive built-in Assistant can detect clutter or even create collages or animations on its own. The app is rounded out with editing tools and unlimited cloud storage if you make some minor compromises on upload quality. Google Photos also extends to photo prints; you can digitize physical photos with the built-in Photo Scan or even order a custom photo book. The companion Google Lens app can even report back information related to your images or photos by scanning them.
Want to keep your internet activities on the down-low, or simply don’t like the idea that the government could be spying on your every move? One of the best Android VPN apps is a great way to prevent that. ExpressVPN offers both a virtual private network, and some advanced features — such as the ability to connect to servers in more than 100 locations around the world. Droid Apps
Untappd helps you record each brew you try along with a rating and tasting notes. Think of it as Swarm for beer! No more staring at a tap list, trying to remember which ones you've had before. The app also has a vibrant community of beer drinkers that can point you toward new discoveries and an extensive list of beers. It's also a handy way to find your favorite brew near your current location. While it's not perfect, it can change the way you think of beer. New Droid Apps
We’ll be honest with you. Facebook Messenger isn’t a great app. It uses a ton of battery, storage, and RAM. It also has ads. However, chances are that you have it on your device. Facebook has tons of users and it’s likely you keep this around because you have those loved ones that just won’t switch to something better. If you’re going to have it around, you might as well enable its SMS support. That way you can kind of kill two birds with one stone. It has satisfactory SMS integration if that helps. It’s not the best option when it comes to texting apps. It is among the most convenient, though, and it’ll subtract one app from your app drawer if you already use Facebook Messenger.
Remember the bad old days of ordering food? You needed takeout menus, knowledge of the terrain ("will they even deliver out here?"), cash, and faith that the person jotting down your order got it right. Seamless takes care of all that, even letting you pay via credit card from your Android. The only drawback? It's not available in every city (or even every state), though it has expanded its range dramatically since it was first included on this list. Android App
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
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. Android App
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 App
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