Last year, we wrote that one of the best features of QKSMS was its open-source nature, allowing for anyone who wishes to change aspects of the app to do so by diving into the openly-available source code. QKSMS remains open-source, but unlike last year, a new “Plus” tier has been added to the app that adds support for automatic night mode (as mentioned above), a full color slider for picking out literally endless colors, and additional upcoming features promised by the dev, including message backup, delayed sending and scheduled messages, auto-respond and auto-forward, and more. There’s no ads in QKSMS, and most people may find the free tier suitable for their liking, but if you want to upgrade, a lifetime license runs you just $2.99, with a license and donate option for $4.99. Overall, we’re quite impressed by QKSMS, even more so than last year. Definitely check this one out. Droid App
It’s an audacious plan, but a year later, Google has yet to really make RCS a reality. Though all four carriers have made some moves in order to actually support RCS, it’s been incredibly limited, especially from the two biggest carriers in the US, Verizon and AT&T. The former has rolled out Universal Profile support to exactly two phones—the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL—while AT&T has yet to roll out Universal Profile support to any devices at all, instead only using their in-house advanced messaging service. T-Mobile and Sprint haven’t done much better, although the former has most Samsung phones updated to support the platform. Android App

Although a weather app's primary function is to give an accurate forecast, the presentation of that data is also important. Overdrop manages to accomplish both feats. The app includes helpful timeline-based graphs of temperature, wind, and rain predictions. Furthermore, you can change the units of measurement that the app displays as well as the weather provider. Your choices are Dark Sky or Weather Bit. Droid App
Those who enjoy podcasts probably have the easiest decision in regards to which podcast app that should use. The answer to that question is Pocket Casts. This insanely stable and good looking app allows you to download or stream various podcasts for your enjoyment. It features both audio-only and video podcast support so you can catch up on just about anything. There is also a light and dark theme, a sign-in feature so you can sync your podcasts across devices, and a pretty decent recommendations function. It underwent a redesign in 2019 that is a bit polarizing, but it’s still an excellent podcast app.
The Google Play Store gets frequent updates, which is great news. The not-so-great news is that it can take weeks, or for some people even longer, to get the latest iteration. The basic functionality never changes so being stuck on an older version isn’t all that bad. However, we understand the urge to get the latest and greatest version on your device. Droid App
CloudCal offers one of the most unique ways of showing you how busy you are on any given day. The Android exclusive uses a system it calls Magic Circles, which turns the days of the month into clock faces and shows different colored circles, or segments of a circle. We also like that you can attach photos, audio files, and Dropbox files to specific events. New Droid Apps
Like Pulse, invi pushes itself as an iMessage competitor for Android, something that we often look at with a skeptical eye on the Play Store. invi isn’t a clone of Pulse, however, nor is it a direct take off of what iMessage offers users on iOS. Instead, it’s a combination app, offering users SMS and MMS support while also acting as an instant messenger client like Facebook Messenger, giving you plenty of the same markings of iMessage like typing signals, read receipts, and more. invi does a lot here that’s interesting enough to keep it in the conversation, but ultimately falls victim to some bloat and a small user base. 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.

In short, here’s the deal: a year ago, The Verge reported that Google had delayed work (and would later go on to outright shutdown) on Allo in order to focus on getting Messages to be the destination for messaging on Android. The plan is surprisingly simple, but relies on a bunch of moving pieces falling into place to get everything right. Google has been building RCS support into Messages for years now, which as mentioned, brings iMessage-style support for advanced messaging over data and even includes a web client to send and read messages from. Unfortunately, carrier support is required for RCS to work properly, but Google has seemingly fixed this. In 2018, Google announced most major companies on board for their plan, including all four US-based carriers (T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T, with Sprint having already been on board).
YAATA SMS is one of a few up and coming texting apps that are really good. It has a bunch of features, including group chat support, schedule message sending, and complete MMS support. If you buy the premium version, you’ll also get SMS blacklisting, an auto-responder, auto-forwarding, and the ability to backup and restore your settings in case you buy a new device. It uses Material Design and it looks quite good. It also comes with widgets, and it even has chat heads similar to Facebook Messenger. There are some bugs, but most of them aren’t serious.
Tasker is a glorious application if you have the patience to learn how to use the app. What it does is allow users to create custom made commands and then use them in various places. There are many apps out there that have Tasker support and you can even use Tasker to create very complex commands for NFC tags. It’s difficult to truly explain what this app can do because it can do so many things. Between the apps supported, plugins you an add, and the sheer volume of stuff that you can do, there aren’t many apps out there as useful as this one. IFTTT is another excellent automation app. In some cases, it may even be better than Tasker thanks to its simplicity and wide range of uses.
Otter is an innovative automatic recording and transcription service that works in real time. Simply hit the record button during a conversation or meeting and Otter will produce a usable transcript a few minutes later. Otter's app is fluid, well-designed, and quick in operation, which makes it ideal for students and professionals who rely on their mobile devices for their work. The app also integrates other top-notch features such as cross-conversation speaker identification, excellent search tools, and in-app editing of transcripts. New Droid Apps
Generally speaking, the app’s strength comes down to its simplicity. There’s no major feature that isn’t in other applications, which makes it an app to get because of its straightforwardness, not because of some incredible feature you can’t get anywhere else. Or at least, that’s the current reason to get Messages for your phone, if it isn’t already preloaded on your device. As we mentioned, Google has much bigger plans for the applications in the long-term that will likely turn the app from our runner-up to our recommended application, assuming all goes according to Google’s strategy.
Let's be honest: Tasker is very intimidating. But we recognize that this is perhaps the most powerful app available in Google Play. With it, you can script basic actions for your Android to perform when specific conditions are met—like flash the LED when you receive a text message. Learning to use something this powerful can be tricky, but the rewards seem worth it. Droid Apps
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
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.

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 App

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