Check out our review of Handcent, an Android app that beefs up your phone's SMS function with a raft of cool new features and options
While the standard-issue SMS and MMS messaging service on the Android platform is perfectly useable, it’s hardly what you’d call feature-rich. It gets the job done with as little fuss as possible but also lacks some of the exciting mod-cons we’ve come to love on other mobile phones.
Thankfully the Android system has been created with customization in mind and as a result we’ve been gifted with numerous messaging apps, of which Handcent SMS currently appears to be the most beloved - if its rating on the Android Market is anything to go by.
Handcent SMS is a communications program which augments your Android phone with thrilling new messaging features and options. The most notable is the interface – the default setting mimics the one seen on Apple’s iPhone, which will either please or annoy you, depending on your opinion of the aforementioned near-ubiquitous device. Thankfully for Google purists there’s the option to switch the theme to an Android-flavored one.
Handcent SMS essentially gives you unprecedented control over how your SMS and MMS messages are displayed; you can change the layout from the familiar iPhone “speech bubble” format to the more formal Android default. You can even pick which font you’d like to use, or apply a fetching background wallpaper to provide visual stimulation during your exhausting text sessions.
It also makes good use of your contact photos by placing them alongside each person’s conversation in the main menu of the application – it’s a simple touch but it makes the whole thing a little more personal.
However, possibly the biggest advantage Handcent SMS has over its rivals is notifications. With the app installed it’s possible to have pop-up alerts – again, similar to Apple’s iPhone – which appear on-screen and divulge the contents of each text message.
You can even assign different notification tones to each person so you know exactly is trying to contact you before you even peruse the contents of the message.
Other benefits include the option to automatically convert messages to MMS format if your essay-length text is longer than three SMS messages and there’s also a compatibility checker which ensures the communication you’re about to send is going to be readable on handsets that aren’t packing the Android OS – special characters unique to Google’s platform can sometimes cause problems.
The package is pretty impressive thanks to the presence of all these options but sadly it does have some stability niggles – it crashed a few times during our review which might suggest that there’s almost too much content being shoehorned into the app.
Still, when it does behave Handcent SMS is a powerful tool which lends credence to Google’s ultimate vision for Android – the OS is merely a platform for developers to create astonishingly useful applications, and this is unquestionably a prime example.
Handcent SMS info
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Platform: Google Android
Developer: Handcent Software
Website/Demo: Handcent Software website