Android phones are amongst the hottest on the market, currently accounting for around 70% of the European mobile market.
Headlined by flagship handsets such as the HTC One (M8), Samsung Galaxy S5 and LG G3, and supported with the strong range of cheaper devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini and uber cheap Motorola Moto E, there is more demand for the Android market than ever.
Whether you’ve just purchased a new Android device, or whether you’re 23 months into a 24 month contract, you’re going to want to make sure that you are getting the most out of your tech.
Fortunately, there are a variety of different messaging apps available on the app store, to complement the variety of apps that come preinstalled.
Google is famed for its Gmail service, one that has an amazing array of features such as labels and filters, as well as massive storage meaning you never have to delete anything.
The search giant also throws Hangouts, its own IM and SMS service, into Android so that you can message all your Google (and non-Google) buddies quickly.
Most Android smartphones also come with a separate SMS app (the Nexus devices just have Hangouts), although each manufacturer throws in varying levels of customisation, so there are too many offerings for us to comment specifically. What each app will do, though, is send a text (or similar).
Below you’ll find our list of the best apps out there, to help you stay in contact with all your friends and colleagues.
1. WhatsApp (First year free, $0.99 per year thereafter)
Now that Facebook has decided to pay a whopping $19 billion for WhatsApp, it has to be top on our list – it’s the biggest messaging app around by far with a user base that’s in love with the service.
WhatsApp is probably the most popular and well known cross OS messaging app out there, sending messages over your Wi-Fi or mobile internet signal.
No longer completely free, although it’s only $0.99 per year with the first year free, WhatsApp covers all your basic needs from a messaging service. The sending of text, pictures, video and voice messages are all supported, as is group chat.
Working with your mobile number, WhatsApp also doesn’t require usernames, passwords and pins, and using the web rather than the mobile network means that there are no pesky international charges.
In all, WhatsApp is popular for a reason. It’s highly customisable, and very easy to use to message others on the service as it connects via your mobile number.
Still don’t want to use WhatsApp, why not try Samsung’s ChatON? ChatON is a well designed, comprehensive (now cross OS) messaging app that even features a built in translator.
2. Kik (Free)
With over 80 million users, Kik is another app that can’t be ignored. Like WhatsApp, it is cross OS and features many nifty features.
There are many similarities to WhatsApp, such as the ability to send photos, have group chats, as well as being able to search for YouTube links, images and self drawn sketches. More interesting features include downloadable emoticons, our favourites being Rage Memes and South Park characters.
You can also create and send different memes from within Kik, or “Photobomb” your friends. The latter is Kik’s answer to SnapChat, which we will cover later.
Kik also prides itself on being personal and private, not having to share your mobile number or email address, rather a username that you can create.
If Kik doesn’t take your fancy, why not try BBM? BBM uses another private way of connecting, the same way it always has, taking a pin rather than username. It too supports both group and image messaging.
3. Skype (Free)
First gaining prominence on the desktop, and gaining a lot of publicity following its sale to Microsoft, Skype is possibly the best known and overall best video calling app out there.
It is also more than just a video and voice calling service, however. IM is fully supported, with Skype’s custom array of smileys making their way over, albeit without the ‘cute’ little animations that we are so fond of.
Again, group messaging is supported, as is the sending of media files and video messages.
Connection to Skype can be done through a dedicated username and password or through an existing Microsoft account, something you might have created to use Windows Live or Windows 8. Since the merge with Microsoft, the Redmond based firm is pushing to connect any existing Skype accounts to your Windows account.
In the way of video calling alternatives, why not try ooVoo? Also free to download, ooVoo features video chat at its heart, whilst also supporting group messaging, video statuses and a speed dial.
4. SnapChat (Free)
Chances are that you have heard of SnapChat, not least because of what you can use it for. It is becoming ever popular as a way to share images quickly and privately, with the added bonus that they don’t hang around.
SnapChat gained popularity because of the temporary nature of the images sent. Images are captured and then sent immediately, to select SnapChat compatriots, with a self destruct timer built in.
Images, or videos, can be sent for anything up to ten seconds, and then wipe themselves off the receivers phone. Whilst there is nothing to stop a screenshot, senders are notified if this occurs. Image editing is also possible, but only to a narrow degree.
A small level of text can be added, and images can be sketched over, so you can show your friends what you look like with a bright red cartoon afro. You can also save your own images.
Not your thing though? Clipchat works on a very similar basis, though shows a pixellated preview of the image to receivers, so they have a rough idea of what they’re opening.
5. Facebook Messenger (Free)
We have had to put this on the list of best apps to download, although there is a chance that it came preinstalled on your new device. Many OEMs are still omitting dedicated Facebook apps, but the Facebook Messenger app is available off the Google Play store.
The two biggest draws of the Facebook Messenger app are the connection to Facebook, where we expect you will have the majority of your closest friends, family and colleagues, and Chat Heads, a feature we first saw on Facebook Home.
The former of the two advantages is self explanatory. It connects directly to Facebook’s chat and messages feature, allowing you to send messages instantly to all your Facebook contacts. Messenger also supports sending of photos, searched images and voice messages.
Facebook’s custom mobile smileys are also available, as well as the new ‘stickers’ featuring massive smileys and cute kittys.
When it comes to Chat Heads, new Facebook messages bring up a little round floating profile picture that sits above all other apps that are running, bar things like full screen video. We have to say we are a little glad there, as we can imagine having a random chat head pop up during Insidious to be pretty scary. Chat Heads can also be removed by swiping them to the bottom of the screen.
If Facebook Messenger just isn’t enough for your needs, you can always try Facebook Home. Replacing your existing home launcher with a dedicated Facebook launcher. Facebook Home brings Facebook messaging right to the heart of your device.
6. Twitter (Free)
Another app that is included by some OEMs and not others is Twitter. The ever popular, 140 character social media site has a dedicated app for reading and sending tweets available from the Play Store, should you not have it.
Its inclusion in a list of best messaging apps might seem a little strange, given that it is at heart a social media site. Then again, what is social media for if not for communicating with your nearest and dearest, and in Twitters case, everyone else as well.
Twitter’s mobile app does everything that the Twitter site does, with direct messages and directed tweets being well managed, although the famous hashtags don’t come with the same highlighting that they do on the site.
Being so popular, there are many alternatives should you decide the native app isn’t enough. TweetCaster packs multiple account support, a well managed splash page and a Zip feature that removes annoying tweets and keywords from your feed, without unfollowing that user.
7. GO SMS Pro (Free, Paid for version available)
One of the beautiful things that you’ll hear any Android user say about the OS, is the extreme level of customisability that just isn’t present on iOS, Windows Phone OS or even BB OS. This means that there are a variety of custom SMS apps present on the Play Store.
There are so many to choose from, we struggle a little to suggest which one is best, although we’re happy enough to say that GO SMS is a decent and comprehensive SMS app.
Among the many features are a paid version to remove ads, downloadable language packs and themes; think your iPhone is cool, look I can make my Android look the same.
Emoji are available, and custom smileys to use instead of the native offering. Chats threads are laid out in bubbles.
Of the more interesting features are the ability to schedule texts so that you don’t forget something important, or so that you don’t have to wake up at 4am to send THAT text, and the ability to customise notifications. This means that you can have differing icons, tones and vibrate patterns to help you differentiate between contacts without even looking at your phone.
If, however, this isn’t quite the app for you, why not try Chomp SMS or Handcent SMS. All three apps currently sit at 4.4/5 in Play Store reviews, and cover all your basic SMS needs.
8. IM+ (Free, Paid for version available)
IM+ is not a dedicated messaging service in the way that WhatsApp, Skype or Kik are. Rather, it is an aggregator of various social accounts such as Windows Live Messenger, Skype, Facebook and more.
Packing in multiple accounts can often mean that contacts from varying accounts can become hard to track, although there is the ability to sort by name or account, as well as being able to see or hide all those unsociable offline contacts.
Nifty features such as a master password, favourite contacts and online notifications are also built in, alongside two themes that mean you can go for normal or high contrast mode. Push mode is also available.
Within chats, pictures and audio can be sent. These are uploaded to IM servers with a link then being sent on, rather than sending the file directly. Files can also be resized for those on smaller data allowances.
Should you decide that this isn’t the app for you, why not try eBuddy? Having been around as a desktop aggregator via the web for as long as we can remember, eBuddy also connects to a plethora of messaging services.
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