Features & Use
The main aim of Handcent SMS is to provide users with a friendly, easy-to-use, and intuitive text and picture messaging program. All your texts are ordered into conversations that are easy to search through.
For starters, let me mention some bad news. Weathered Android users are already familiar with the term virtual keyboard. Just about a year ago, there were no Android phones with virtual keyboards on the market. Android finally bridged the gap with the appearance of the HTC Magic. Before that time, I had been happily typing away on my legendary T-Mobile G1. As a result, many app producers started developing their own virtual keyboards for their respective apps. The previous version of Handcent SMS even came out with a T9 keyboard at that time. Unfortunately, the T9 keyboard is missing in the new and updated version of Handcent SMS. This shouldn’t be too much of a bother for those that already enjoy using keyboards such as Swype, ShapeWriter, and so on. If you can’t live without your good old T9, you can install it here.
Enough with the negative - let’s start talking positively. Handcent SMS offers you a pop-up window for incoming text messages that you can configure any way you’d like. You can adjust whether you’d like this pop-up window to be displayed only when your actively using your phone or in background mode as well. Directly in the pop-up window you can respond to a text message, add a contact to your history, delete a message, or write a message using the voice recognition feature.
Handcent SMS also offers a neat feature for those of you that have something to hide (don’t we all?). If you tap and hold any contact from the main screen you can add them to a blacklist. At first I thought placing contacts on this list would prevent them from texting you any more. Apparently, I was wrong. Actually, when you add a contact to your blacklist, you can only view their text messages after entering a special password (can be set-up in the settings).
With the Handcent SMS Widget, you can always check the number of incoming messages directly on your homescreen. All you need to do is tap and hold on your homescreen and select Handcent SMS Widget from your scroll-down menu. You can also add a customized signature to either all contacts or a selected number of them. Simply select the settings icon at the top right of your conversation box and go to “Sent SMS Settings”. Most of the Handcent SMS customization features are located in the main settings menu. In your messaging settings you can choose an individual type of notification for every contact. You can customize anything from ringtones, messaging symbols in the status bar, vibration type, LED screen color, and trackball lighting. It’s all in your hands!
If you happen to send group text messages once in a while, this app has got the perfect solution for you.
Simply press on the plus button in an empty conversation window to add multiple contacts or groups. Keep in mind that by default these groups are your synched Google Groups.
Handcent SMS can also read your text messages out loud to you. Go to your settings first and put a checkmark next to “TTS Type” in the language section. Unfortunately, the friendly female voice speaks so quickly and robot-like that you’ll have difficulty understanding her.
The range of features available on Handcent SMS is mind-boggling. I enjoyed the popup interface most of all. Having used this feature to send off a few quick responses, I can’t go back to the standard messaging program. The level to which you can customize just about every aspect of text messaging with this app is so COOL! What other app can over so much in one package?
Screen & Controls
If you’re into stylish interfaces, Handcent SMS won’t disappoint you. The customization possibilities are virtually endless. First off, you can change your skin in the settings. You can choose between an iPhone and Hero style skin. Second, you can change the conversation style by selecting different types of speech bubbles. “Handcent Classic” and “iPhone style” have the most classy speech bubble designs. Remember you can always change the text bubble’s color, background, as well as font. You can download special Font Packs from the Android Market. The controls are so simple and clear that you won’t need any adjustment time to get use to the app.
The app is amazingly well-done! Every minute detail can be personalized, leaving every user happy and satisfied.
Speed & Stability
Generally speaking, the app’s speed on my Android devices was good. Nonetheless, I wasn’t completely satisfied with its performance. I got a bit frustrated from seeing one too many loading screens during my test. Maybe it’s just because my G1 has worn itself out after a good year of use. Users with newer phones shouldn’t experience any problems of this sort. I didn’t have a single crash.
Handcent SMS is available to download for free from the Android Market.