Welcome back to the battlefield. This week on the App Battle I will be looking at the top apps forShort Message Service (or SMS, a.k.a. Text messaging) . When you are constantly on the go in today’s world, it’s important to be able to reach your friends and loved ones at all times, but it’s not always convenient, or appropriate to call them. Such situations require you to use some other form of communication like email, or chat messaging, or text messaging. We all know that email, though usually reliable as a means of message delivery, is not quite as direct as other alternative forms of telecommunication, and as a result, can get ignored or lost in the noise known as Spam, or junk email. Chat messaging is direct, and timely, yet if the party you wish to contact doesn’t use your type of chat messenger, or is not signed in when you need them, it just won’t work. The third option usually available to cell phone users, is text messaging. Text messaging is direct, it’s timely, it doesn’t require much with regards to being set up to receive messages, and best of all, it’s available to a wider number of cell phone users because it does not require an email or chat client be installed. Luckily for smartphone users, SMS Apps are available that can make simple text messages transmittted via wireless signals work just like a chat client. This makes it easier for the user to read conversations, respond to new messages, and usually, the users doesn’t have to worry about how long their text message is because these clients split the messages up for them in order to comply with SMS texting rules set by the carrier.
When preparing for this article, I was only able to find a couple of SMS client alternatives, so as an added bonus, I will be looking at SMS backup apps as well. These come in handy for when you want to clear out your texting inbox, but don’t wish to completely get rid of your old messages. Oh, and by the way, be sure to read all the way to the end for a quick suggestion for an SMS app that can be a real life changer!
Part 1: SMS Messaging Apps
Stock Android SMS
The stock Android SMS app is really good at providing all of the basic services of an SMS client. The stock app provides an audible and/or vibration notification of new messages, an optional preview of the message in the status bar, It handles breaking down extra long messages into sizable chunks for the carrier’s network. It splits conversations up spacially into an easy-to-read format with the users’ comments positioned to the right, and the users’ contacts’ messages positioned on the left of the screen. All in all, this app is capable of providing the user with everything they will absolutely have to have to participate in a texting conversation, and allows the users to set up a few things the way they want them.
Those who find that they simply cannot handle only being able to customize their notifications may want to have a look at Chomp SMS. Chomp SMS is an alternative SMS app that adds more features to the stock SMS app. For starters, Chomp offers a more advanced type of notification. When enabled, Chomp will display the message being received in a pop-up window with options to mark as read, save in the notifications view for later, or or reply immediately. Chomp allows usrs to create custom templates of replies for quickly responding without having to type. The Chomp app is customizable, and can be Themed using a downloadable theme, or users can choose to change the color of the screen elements to their own preferences. The Chomp client also adds some security to texting by allowing users to blacklist contacts making it so that their texts no longer show up in the application. Chomp SMS comes in an ad-supported version, and a premium versions for those who wish to text sans ads ($4.95). Both versions provide a desktop widget that shows off the latest unread messages.
Now, if you have seen what Chomp can do, and you are still not impressed, step right this way and have a gander at Handcent. I’m certain that you will be pleased by what you see. The Handcent app takes everthing that Chomp can do, removes the ads by default, and adds in a whole host of other features. For one, the notification pop-up is more robust allowing the user return a quick message template with a couple of taps, return a message typed by voice, call the user on the phone, delete the message entirely, have the message read to them by the device, or the user can simply type a reply into the provided textbox and tap send. Handcent provides users with a desktop widget that shows all messages currently stored on the phone. Handcent also supports 15 different languages!
The battle this week was a short, and a decisive victory has been granted to Handcent. Although the stock messaging app and both of the alternative clients proved to handle their responsibilities without fail, the Handcent app can do everything that the other clients can do and more, and for this reason, it is currently the SMS app to download.
Part 2: The App Skirmish – SMS Backup Utilities
SMS Backup is a text messaging backup utility that archives users’ old text messages to Gmail. By default, messages backed up to Gmail will be saved under the SMS label, and marked as read. These options are configurable, as well as the maximum number of items to back up, and users have the option of setting this backup to run manually, or automatically.
SMS Backup & Restore does just what it says that it does, it backs up all of your messages to xml! This will sound really cool if you are a web developer geek like myself. And if you are, that is be all you really need to know because all the information you could ever want about these messages is there for you in a text format that provides you with the ability to display them however you want assuming you can write the code. Luckily for everyone else, they don’t have to know a thing about xml because this application can take those file and restore all of that data back to the device in seconds with just the tap of a finger. Of course after you’ve used this app to delete all your messages for you, you can simply use the app to view those backups if you’d rather not restore them completely.
SMS to Text
SMS to Text backs up all of your SMS messages to Text simple as that. Once exported, go find the dated text file on your device, and there’s the data. I’m really not sure that this is easier to read than plain old xml, but to each his own.
The skirmish title goes to the SMS Backup & Restore App. Although I liked the idea of backing up the messages to Gmail for safekeeping, I really like the use of xml as a way of making the messages stored in a more flexible way, and rather than saving individual messages as Gmail conversations, I think that it may be better to store the data in one flat file, and possibly backing that up to your Gmail archive for safekeeping. When I opened the text file version of my backups to try and see what was stored there, it literally gave me a headache. The SMS Backup and Restore App just seems like the most useful app overall, and is likely to remain on my device for as long as I have it.
When looking for SMS apps to test I ran across a little app called SMS Wishes. This app allows you to input a message, set a time and date for it to be delivered, and add recipients. It can even be set to run on certain days of the week! Well, I couldn’t resist setting it up to send my beautiful wife an “I love you” message at exactly 9:36 ever morning. So, once she reads this the cat will be out of the bag, and she will realize that I’m not as thoughtful as I seemed to be over the last week, but for you guys out there who are forgetful about saying nice things, or remembering birthdays/anniversaries, and things like that, this is a great social app that you should be sure to use! Note to the wife: I mean it every day, Candy, and thanks for all your help testing the SMS clients this week!
Thanks for checking out the app battle this week! Once again if you have any ideas, suggestions, questions, comments, whatever, just send them our way in either a comment on this article, and email to one of us, or a tweet to the new @TDGAppBattle Twitter account! Also, please, if you decide that you like one of the apps reviewed, please, take the time to spread the word about it, and support the developers in the Android community for all the hard work that they do making our phones the great devices that they are! Until next time, Peace!