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.
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.
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.
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