Handcent SMS – A free, powerful SMS and MMS customization app for Android


Handcent SMS is a free, powerful tool for customizing your texting experience on your Android phone. It features a very robust system of customizing everything involved with texting and multi-media messaging as well. It’s easy to use, easy to install, and takes up very little space on your device.

Android phones (and iPhones of course) have become the new standard for cellular devices. That being the case, there’s a proliferation of apps available to customize pretty much anything you could think of. Now, many of these apps require you to do something called “rooting” your phone, which is a fancy tech way of saying you unlock it to get admin rights, basically. That’s a simplified explanation for a process that is not recommended by the manufacturer or the retailer of your Android. The process of rooting itself is not simple and can have the ultimate effect of “bricking” your phone, making it useless for anything but a paperweight. So, for those of us who want to customize our Androids without risking bricking, apps are the answer.

Enter, Handcent SMS; possibly the most powerful and in-depth customization tool out there for SMS and MMS. Handcent’s menu of options is so long and so stuffed with different variables you can tweak that it pretty much allows you to overhaul the entire SMS and MMS system on your Android, all for free and all without changing any of the original programming on the device. Handcent SMS is an app that basically takes over the whole process of instant messaging, and in fact, that is one of the actual options for the app. You can tell Handcent to completely ignore the native messaging process, or let it share with Handcent. It’s up to you. Either way, the end result is the ability to customize nearly any aspect. From fonts to backgrounds to notification sounds to contact lists, everything is customizable.

Handcent SMS Screen 1 Handcent SMS Screen 2
Additionally, there are tons of Handcent add-ons you can download for free as well. Things like color schemes, templates, font packs, all kinds of custom content. No more black text on a white screen! If you want, you can have green text on a black screen, or any other combo you can think of. That’s the smallest example of the things you can change to your own desires with Handcent SMS. The home page for Handcent on the Android Market list tons of others that I didn’t mention here, like being able to have messages pop up in your home screen instead of going to the messaging window, or the available widget that will show your summary of messages.

Another great feature of Handcent SMS is the social network that they support. You can sign up for a totally free account with the Handcent servers, which will open even more options to you! For example, you might spend a whole day tweaking and fiddling with your SMS interface getting it to look just the way you want. What happens if you lose your phone or for some other reason need to replace it? Well, if you have a free Handcent account, you can save your entire customized interface to their servers so that you can download and install it on a different device at a later date. Bear in mind, too, that you can do this with any device that uses Android OS for instant messages.

Additionally, you can set the Handcent app to use the Handcent servers for sending picture messages. What’s the advantage? Using the Handcent servers instead of your mobile carrier’s service, you are not limited to standard MMS size. That means you can send huge original size pictures to your friends from your phone without re-sizing them for transfer across the network. The only drawbacks to this are that you will use more data by sending the bigger pictures, and the friend you are sending them to must have a Handcent account as well. Given that the account is totally free, however, this is not such a burden, and many Android plans have unlimited data these days anyway (or pretty close to unlimited). The free Handcent account also allows you to send things like e-cards for holidays or birthdays. There are also options for some paid subscription services but none of these are required in any way to use the Handcent app.

Handcent SMS Screen 3 Handcent SMS Screen 4

Requiring Android OS 1.5 or later, Handcent SMS has a very small installation footprint, downloading and installing at under 10 MB, and takes up very little in the way of active resources as well. The core app can’t be moved from the phone memory to the SD card, but any of the expansions like style themes and font packs can be stored on the SD card to help minimize the footprint on your phone’s internal memory. Add to that the fact that the app is supremely easy to use with a very intuitive interface, and you’ve got a winner on your hands. The only drawback to the program overall is that it does have ads on the screen at the bottom (as with a large majority of Android apps) but the ad bar is so small and unobtrusive you hardly even notice it, and it only appears in the settings menus, never in the actual text windows. If you have to have ads, it’s nice that they don’t appear in the actual messaging windows at all, since that would defeat the purpose of an uber customization app.

Handcent SMS Screen 6 Handcent SMS Screen 5

With everything that Handcent can do (and trust me, we’ve only touched on the tip of the iceberg here), and a price tag of zero, it’s one of the best apps of its kind that I have found.

Until next time, my friends.

Get Handcent SMS for Android here

  • 1 – Not sure why you bothered to mention rooting. Since Handcent is just a normal app why bother describing what rooting is when it’s not going to be needed? In fact even just mentioning rooting might of put a lot of people off reading any further.
    2 – You neglect to mention that you need to disable the notifications in the default messaging app otherwise you will get double notifications with each message.
    3 – When you send an MMS you are uploading and so not using any of your data allowance as that only counts when you are downloading.

    Other than that I have to say Handcent has been my messaging app of choice for a long time. Th eonly real alternatives are Go SMS and Chomp SMS. Chomp just feels like a toy and whilst Go SMS is powerful I just feel that Handcent has the edge because Go have several apps where as Handcent is just dedicated to messaging.

    Only time I stopped using Handcent was when I recently tested a new Android rom called Miui which has a very good built in messaging app. Back on Cyanogenmod now so back with good old Handcent.

  • Ed

    Ads are a deal breaker for me. I HATE ADS. A one time fee option would be preferred. So I won’t be installing this app. For me again, it’s NOT a small app @ around 10 MB, as I consider that HUGE BLOATWARE, especially just for a few pretty colors. If more apps go this “small” route of yours, then they will just choke, become unresponsive & the apps therefore become useless. If you think that 10 MB’s is small, it also makes me wonder what you think is few resources when the app is running in the background waiting to receive, render or send a pretty message? You don’t have me convinced without some hard numbers on resources used vs. just opinion. This is just fat eye candy.

  • @Ed
    1 – The ads are only in the menu and not in the messaging part of the app. So how often do you intend to be going in to the menu?
    2 – There is no need to have the app always running. You need to have it run at start up to get it’s SMS settings from the phone but then you can kill it and the phone will run it as and when it receives a message. That and the fact it is in memory does not mean it is using power.

  • B.C. Tietjens

    Thanks for your comments. As always, they are poignant and thought provoking. I mentioned rooting simply as conversational information and a lead in. I am glad, however, that it did not make you stop reading. Thanks, also, for the reminder about disabling notifications. I did not have to do that myself on my Android but I can see where it would be a common thing.

    I personally thought that 10 megabytes is pretty small for most Androids out there. Considering an average (on low end Androids) of at least 128MB internal space on the phone, 10 megs didn’t seem like a lot to me. Sorry for the confusion. As for the ads, I am not in any way fond of them myself but Carbonize makes the point I would have mentioned. The ads only appear in the settings menu main page, and not in the actual messaging windows or even in the ‘deeper’ settings pages. They are pretty unobtrusive, as ads go.
    As for you final comment, I agree that Handcent SMS has a lot to offer as far as eye candy goes, but I would also say that it does have other, useful features (as mentioned in the review) but even if not: what’s wrong with eye candy?

    Thank you very much for reading and for your comments, all!

  • Ray

    Yeah Handcent is good, but Zlango offers much better features – https://market.android.com/details?id=com.zlango.zms&feature

  • Ray

    Yeah Handcent is good, but Zlango offers much better features – https://market.android.com/details?id=com.zlango.zms&feature

  • @Ray – No, just no. Zlango is no where near as good as Handcent nor does it have half the features. Zlango is one of the programs that has a special hell reserved for it alongside the likes of Comet Cursor and Smiley Central.

  • Anonymous

    It’s been almost a yr since I last had handcent on my phone, although my wife uses it. Frankly, I thought it was just “o.k.” and once I found GoSMS I didn’t look back.

    I rarely get to use Handcent via my wife’s phone, but on those occasions, I haven’t found it as intuitive as GoSMS.

    GoSMS has become extremely bloated with so-called “features” over the course of the year, fortunately most of the bloat can be turned off.. but GoSMS’ constant revisions and “new features” means I’m constantly backing up my previous versions just in case I can’t live with the latest “new & improved” developer release.

    I just want an SMS app with SMS FEATURES — NOT built-in pic/movie viewers, in-house chat apps, games, FTP support.. etc.. etc.. I can get those other features from apps dedicated to those functions — without having to load all that junk every time I send/receive a text msg.

    Finally.. I’m completely sick and tired of apps with ADs! I get that SOME devs want to earn money from their work. Fine… charge for the damn app!! But if you’re gonna call it a “free” app… then give it away without MAKING your users look at ADs every time they use it!

    For myself.. I use almost exclusively “free” apps and the few that I’ve bought had trial or free versions that were very functional but offered many more features with the paid version — which was enough to make we WANT to buy them!

    THAT IS THE MODEL TO FOLLOW! Give me an app that does what it should, very well. But have a second version with some innovative features and extras that make it worth paying for… sounds like the right idea, but too many devs don’t want to do that level of work, IMO.

  • Jacob

    I updated Handcent on my phone, then i realized that i liked the old version better, is there any way i could un-update that app on my phone?