Phan Favs: The Best Messaging App for Android [RESULTS]


PhanFav hangouts

Phan Favs is a recurring feature that turns the tables and asks you, the readers, about the best apps and games. It’s your turn to drop some knowledge on us! Read more.

Communicating with people is one of the biggest functions of a smartphone. There is an almost infinite amount of apps that can be used to communicate in some form. Which ones are the best? Last week we asked you to tell us which messaging apps you use. These apps could be used for SMS, instant messaging, video chat, or all three. After one full week we have tallied the votes. Here are your picks for the Top 5 Messaging Apps for Android.

1. Hangouts


In a landslide victory Google’s own SMS/instant messaging app was your top pick. Hangouts started life as Google Chat/Talk, but recently was converted to a proprietary messaging service. In the past year Google has also added the ability to send SMS with Hangouts, and made it the default messaging app on Nexus devices. It can do video chat, voice calls, group chats, send photos, and just about everything else you’d expect.

2. Textra SMS


Coming in at second place is Textra, a beautifully simple SMS replacement. This app aims to be a replacement for the bland SMS apps that come on most Android devices. It has a few different themes to choose from, over 800 emojis, animated GIF support, a quick reply pop-up window, group messaging, and so much more. If you just want something a little more feature-packed than the stock SMS app this is a nice choice.

3. Handcent SMS


Handcent calls itself the “most popular messaging app on the Android platform.” It has certainly been around for a long time, and apparently people are still using the crap out of it. What Handcent lacks in design it makes up for with features. It has a handy pop-up quick reply windows, Facebook profile photo sync, tons of themes and skins, group chat, cloud backup, and so much more.

4. Stock


Sometimes the SMS app that comes on your phone is good enough. Samsung, HTC, LG, and others all have slightly different stock SMS apps. If you don’t do a lot of texting you might not care what it looks like. Apparently a good portion of you fall into this category. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just because you can change the SMS app doesn’t mean you have to.

5. Evolve SMS


One of the best looking SMS apps available for Android is Evolve SMS. This app fully embraces all of the Android design guidelines, and looks great doing it. The interface allows you to slide easily between conversations, and a pop-up makes it easy to quickly respond. There is group messaging, gestures, widgets, themes, tons of emojis, customizeable notifications, and much more.


Those are your picks! Thanks for sharing your favorite apps with us. If you think your pick got snubbed make your case for it in the comments. Check out the chart below to see how the voting went for the top ten apps. We’ll be back next week with another edition of Phan Favs. Don’t miss it!

messaging chart

Joe Fedewa
Ever since I flipped open my first phone I've been obsessed with the devices. I've dabbled in other platforms, but Android is where I feel most at home.

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  1. This is to be expected on Phandroid, Droid-Life, Android Central, etc, but I just asked 4 people in my office if they use Hangouts on their cell and they all said “what”?

    1. Those 4 people likely just text and don’t think about this type of stuff. Most users don’t. They just use what’s there.

      1. True that, plus people who visit this site tend to have more insight into the tech world than the average smartphone user that got it to play angry birds

        1. Condescension much? Most people don’t give a rat’s a$$ about the intricacies of tech because they think in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter to them. It’s not indifference. It’s simply a choice not to pay attention to what many consider triviality.

          1. That’s exactly what he said. He never mentioned indifference.

            And he’s right. Some people aren’t interested in tech, and as you’d expect, they don’t know much about it. Same as anything else. It’s a pity, but the good news is if you’re one of those people you wouldn’t be on this website in the first place.

          2. Reading comprehension much? (And, talk like a 14-year-old girl much?)

          3. How is my reading comprehension as bad as you say? How do I sound the same as a 14-year-old girl?

    2. Hangouts can’t really do anything that Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp or Snapchat can’t. Plus none of my close friends or even acquaintances use Hangouts or even know what it is as far as I’m aware . It’s not because we’re stupid, it’s just that Hangouts is far less known than the other two and it doesn’t really offer anyone an incentive to switch that is being marketed or advertised. Without an incentive to learn a new system and change few people would.

  2. Everyone I know uses whatsapp.

    1. Yeah, I was surprised more people didn’t vote for WhatsApp.

      1. Probably because Whatsapp isn’t exactly like Hangouts, which now uses SMS. Whatsapp and others like Telegram are not SMS replacement apps.

        1. This was open to all messaging apps, not just SMS.

      2. WhatsApp is used more frequently in foreign countries, and also with those who they contact in the United States…. and the majority of people voting here all reside within the U.S., so chalk it up to demographics.

      3. I use whatsapp too. Unfortunately the reality is that you pretty much need more than one depending on who you are talking to. What I don’t like about Whatsapp is first, the ugly UI but mostly that it is tied to your phone number so I can’t hand a conversation off to another device like I can with hangouts.

  3. EvolveSMS all the way, its beautiful and has tons of themes.

    1. i had evolve but then i dropped it. I didnt feel like i was getting enough notifications for all of my texts, sometimes i’d be waiting for a response and only to find out i was already responded to hours ago, i just didnt get the vibrate/sound. Does this happen to you?

      1. No, everything seems pretty seemless once you get the mms settings setup.

  4. I don’t know what everyone is so wild about with Hangouts. It doesn’t really do anything more than the standard app Samsung issued with the phone except give me a separate notification sound when I get a text, and merge my Google+ list. Big deal… I haven’t tried the rest, but the standard Messages app in my Note 3 works just fine.

    1. Samsung’s stock messaging app allows for video chat and has a rich selection of emoticons?

      1. Emoticons yes, video no. At least it allows separate notification tones per contact.

        1. You can set a separate notification tone per contact on nearly every Android phone from the contact it’s self so hangouts doesn’t need to give you this feature separately.

          1. I realize that. And that’s how it works on Samsung. The thing is I did that and I just get the tone that’s in hangouts. So, as I said, hangouts doesn’t allow individual notification tones per contact. At least on my S3.

      2. Well, I have the Verizon model that requires a 3rd party app for video call, and that also takes the feature away from Hangouts, as well, and, frankly, I could care less about them. As for smileys, yes, a rich collection.

        1. You mean you “COULDN’T care less about them.” Think about it.

      3. If a rich selection of emoticons is that important to you you have to take a look at your priorities. Wow, haha. Plus, Skype can do that (and most people have it). Hangouts is the ugly sister of the social networking family.

    2. I think it is more about what it is planned to do. Yes, as-is, it is a SMS messaging app. But eventually it will be a phone substitute once Google Voice is integrated. Basically, in a future Android update (like the current iOS app) any mobile device will act like a phone if it has a WIFI connection. People will be call via a phone dialer, do a video chat, send SMS, or use the official Hangouts chat. This stand alone, all in one messaging app will allow people to save a lot of money if they choose to go that route.

    3. Try PPLCONNECT if you’re in North America

    4. You need to use it more.

      – Video chat
      – Group Chat
      – Location Sharing
      – Seamless web integration for conversation handoff
      – Seamless merge between SMS and Hangouts (finally)

      Plus, all the touchwhiz apps are horrendously ugly

  5. I would continue to use Hangouts if it didn’t ruin group chats I have with friends by failing to receive messages. Textra has never given me those problems. Despite it’s rather bland design, Textra is the one I roll with.

    1. Really? I have like a dozen group chats going on in hangouts at any given time and never had a single message missed by anyone. That is actually my favorite thing about hangouts, it is by far the most reliable of services I have used.

      1. This is true. In hangouts, my group messages come and go grouped.

        1. What do you mean? Are you talking about MMS? Or Hangouts. I have had about five group chats going for four months. All there. Maybe you are archiving them?

        2. Are you accidentally archiving them?

          1. Whoops. Wasn’t clear enough. Sorry. What I meant was if someone sends a group message, when I reply it sends as a group message back. I know, it’s not the best comment in the world. LoL!!

            I actually have no idea why I even said that. That’s not always true. It depends on how the receiver has things set up.

            *worst comment NA*

          2. Oh, I can fix that for you. I had the same issue. You have to turn off ‘Group Messaging’ in the SMS settings. If you leave it on, it replies to everyone. It has nothing to do with the receiver.

          3. I turn it on because I thought leaving it off replies to everyone. What happens when I receive a group message? Are you saying it only replies to the person who originally created it?

            If that’s the case, then I guess I can turn it off. I never really use it since everyone IM’s for group messages.

          4. Nope you have it backwards. Turning it off replies just to the person you sent it to and doesn’t treat it as a ‘group’. You can still receive them fine though. MMS Group messaging is super annoying. Use a hangout if you want a reliable ‘group’ message.

          5. Ah!! Okay. I’ll do that then. *nods*

  6. Another dark horse, Facebook Messenger. I use Hangouts for SMS but so many people I know message via FB and the app performs well so it’s a contender on my device.

    EDIT: Curiously they ditched SMS but I don’t have any one contact that relies solely on SMS. Plus sending pics and videos via alternate messengers looks so much better.

    1. Yeah, I was really surprised that FB Messenger got barely any votes. It’s actually a really great app, and everyone is on FB.

      1. Not everyone, my dad and my wife don’t even have FB accounts and I have one but I never use it and have never had a FB app on my phone (unless it came pre-installed)

  7. Chomp didn’t even make the list…sigh

    1. Yeah, I’m surprised. That was #1 when I got my OG Droid, and I’m still using it.

    2. I know! I can’t believe it. Chomp is fantastic and extremely customizable. I’ve been using it for ages now.

  8. I’m looking for some clarification and hope someone can help. My family was using MySMS as our text messaging service (works on phone, PC and tablet) , but we noticed that it was using a TON of data. If I stay with stock SMS messaging, then AT&T only charges against my text plan (which is what I want.) I am looking for an alternative to the stock app, but I don’t want it to use my data. Does Hangouts or other app really use Simple Messaging Service?

    1. Use hangouts! it works across all those platforms and uses ur text plan

    2. Where are you located? PPLCONNECT is a good one for Android, only in North America for now but will be going International soon. It lets you send SMS & free messages between users of the PPLCONNECT app, plus you can access & use it on any device through a web browser – it’s on and beyond the handset.

    3. Yes, if you send an SMS text with Hangouts, it uses your messaging service rather than data. However, it will only go to your phone or the other person’s phone because they are the only devices with a phone number to send the message to. If you send a regular Hangouts message, you can get them on your phones, tablets and computers but it will use some data. I don’t think it would use very much data unless you are sending a lot of pictures and video through Hangouts messages. If you want to get the messages on your computer like I do, you will want to have Chrome with the Hangouts extension installed.

  9. Interesting…I’ve been using Go SMS pro for text. Over on Google Play it has a 4½ star rating on the strength of 1.3 Million votes and over 570,000 Google+ recommends. For Textra? 4¼ stars, 25,000 votes, 17,000 recommends (rounded up).

  10. Google forced hangouts onto my phone kinda like MS and IE. I had to search out and download the app i use.

    1. Forced software usage is a bunch of crap. The day I make Hangouts my default messaging app on my phone is the day it becomes even slightly ubiquitous (or when the majority of people that I know and contact regularly makes it their default messaging app). Until then Hangouts can go to some reality where more than 0.01% of the tech-competent population starts caring.

      1. What does it matter if your friends use Hangouts for SMS? You can use it and they can use another app.

        1. What if I (or anyone else for that matter) doesn’t want to get used to a new, different UI etc of a different messaging app or if I/anyone else actually am/are happy with the default stock Android messaging app? So far no one has actually brought a distinct advantage Hangouts has over the myriad of other solutions?

      2. have you noticed that the hangouts app merges your sms messages and hangout messages into the SAME conversation? it works beautifully, even if other people are not using hangouts.

      3. That’s one great thing about Android. Google doesn’t force us to use anything. They provide and improve apps for us, like Hangouts, but any user can download and make a different app the default. Hangouts is my messaging app of choice though.

    2. Do you guys understand how your phone works? They also “forced” Gmail, the default browser, a dialer, and other built in apps on your phone so you can actually operate the damn thing. They also “forced” the old messenger program on your phone that was there before hangouts.

      You can easily install another messenger and make it default for messenger. That’s what I ended up doing.

  11. I’m surprised people still use SMS. The people around me here in the Netherlands all use whatsapp or Facebook messenger.

    1. Those only work if the person you are sending to has an account for those services and has the app installed on their phone.

      1. Yes, I get that. However, Whatsapp has been available free of charge up until now, and Messenger from Facebook does not require you to have an account anymore. The percentage of people having smartphones in the Netherlands is immense, almost everywhere there is a decent signal, and therefore there’s no excuse why you should use SMS as a daily driver (at least in my country). Especially when you consider the added functionality these apps offer you.

        1. SMS is always going to be widely preferred because it doesn’t require making an account, having a data connection, etc. It has shortcomings compared to modern messaging services, but there is ease of access that the others don’t provide.

          Everyone has an “SMS account” as long as they have an SMS plan on their phone. Can’t assume the same for all these other messaging services. And I’m certainly not one to beg each and every one of my friends and family members to create a new account on a proprietary messaging platform just so I can contact them.

      2. Not to mention that you have be online (wifi or mobile data) to be able to receive those messages? Don’t know about anyone else but I much prefer knowing someone will receive my messages right away using texts/SMS (not to mention that it saves battery life not having to be connected via wifi or mobile data just to guarantee that my messages are sent and received). Unlimited messaging makes the cost a non-issue.

  12. I like Hangouts as an app but I moved away from it for SMS, too often I wanted to send a text to someone and ended up sending them a gtalk/hangouts message instead, if that person didn’t use hangouts they would never see it.

    Also I could never send MMS messages via Hangouts.

    Currently using Hello and it seems pretty good.

    1. They fixed that problem… There are no longer separate chat windows for each conversion type, and once you pick a person, SMS or chat is really visible and switched. This was about a week ago.

      1. Yes, but if you send to a person who happens to have a google+ account but never uses it (like a lot of people) they never see it; or dont want to go outsider Their SMS app to read it.

        1. you can send the message as an SMS instead of a hangout message in that case…its a simple dropdown box next to the recipient’s number

        2. Then send it as a text.

        3. That’s my point. That’s what they fixed. It’s really visible and easy to change back and forth

    2. SMS messages and Hangout messages are merged into the same conversation now. It’s not like how it used to be.

  13. Disappointed that evolve is at number 5.

    1. It is still kind of new. I prefer Sliding Messaging. (the more advanced? version I guess) But on my HTC M8 the stock messaging, like everything else on the phone, is soooooooooo smooth and clean looking.

    2. Do you think its better than Hangouts?

      1. I would say it is for me. I don’t use hangsouts to message anyone. I just use SMS or facebook, and I don’t like the way hangsouts tries to merge SMS and IM together. Plus, no one I know uses google Hangouts. Evolve is so pretty anyways.

        1. hmmm, to me, Hangouts is SMS. so i use it all the time even if I don’t use it for sending hangout msgs.

  14. Currently using hangouts. Haven’t tried anything else with my N5.

  15. I just tried Textra…..OMG I love it!!!!! it has a black theme to save battery life!!!!! it is optimized for Tmobiles WiFi Calling…this was the issue I had with Hangouts..I couldn’t send SMS via WiFi… but now I can with Textra!!! GIFs!!!! Emojis!!! sound clips!!!! pop-up reply!!! quick reply from notifications!!!! never going back!!!

    Edit: I will still use hangouts for video calling to collaborate with classmates and coworkers….

    1. Your excitement makes me want to go try Textra now.

      1. Dude textra is soon as you launch it, it takes 15 seconds setting up….this is not a chat application it is actually a SMS/MMS application with support for GIF. emojis and all..

        I have an AMOLED screen with pitch black home and lock screen + power saving +screen filter to save I can add Dark Theme to it with Textra..also choose different colors for bubbles…pop up works perfect..this is a feature I first saw on the Galaxy S5 video. basically I can be on phandroid and the. a with Dow pops up for me to read and reply to a message. once done, the window goes away and I’m back to browsing.. no need to go to the message app…try it out…

  16. I use Evolve be cause it looks great and has the all important pop up reply feature. If Hangouts added that functionality, I’d give it another shot.

  17. I would use Hangouts, But my only issue is that it cannot send MMS with wifi.. :/

    1. My only issue is that there is no way to reply from the notification bar. >.<

      1. No Google Voice support. Crashes on incoming SMS. Laggy.

  18. I like Sliding SMS.
    Its has the looks of Hangouts with the functionality of CM Stock SMS.

  19. How the HELL did Chomp not make this list? Holy smokes…

  20. I’m really surprised that no Sprint customers stuck up for Voice. I thought about switching to Verizon about a year ago and didn’t want to de-intergrate my Voice account, I _love_ being able to use my pc, tablet, or phone to get all my sms messages.

  21. I am partial to GoSMS Pro. I guess I have been using for so long I haven’t bothered to try anything else other than Google Hangouts.

    I just like that I can create my own themes for GoSMS.

  22. No per contact customization in Hangouts = complete and total fail.

  23. I used to use GoSMS pro but I haven’t sent an SMS in over 2 years. Been using Whatspp ever since then, When Facebook bought them I switched over to Telegram and so did most of my friends and family. For those few friends I’ve got that aren’t on Telegram I just use FB Messenger.

  24. Go SMS for the win. Has so many options and is customizable.. Go has over 50 million downloads and the rest are at a fraction of that but yet is low on the list.. come on!!

  25. I would set Hangouts as my default SMS/MSS app, but I want certain text alerts to play when certain contacts message me. Until they can do this, going to use the stock S4 messenger.

  26. hoverchat formerly ninja sms

  27. Whatsapp is at the bottom. Facebook bought it for 19 billion. It’s “almost” funny.

  28. I wish hangouts had those quick reply popups. I really miss them from the old stock android SMS app.

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