Although SMS remains the only way to be sure of reaching anyone with a mobile number, in any country, very few apps currently support it. That’s partly due to the age of the protocol, and partly to advancements by WhatsApp and other messaging apps.
The latest Android app to drop SMS support is Signal (iOS apps were never allowed access to SMS, of course). The developers say it “no longer makes sense” to have an SMS component in the app. Signal reasons that it’s less secure than newer messaging standards, may attract extra data bills, and can confuse users.
Many people do still use SMS, however, not least to communicate with friends and family who may not have the same messaging apps installed or who are on a different mobile operating system. If you need texting on Android, here are your options.
Messages by Google
The default messaging app on Pixel and Galaxy phones is Messages by Google, although Google is pushing the successor to SMS: rich communication services (RCS). This new standard adds a lot of the extras now taken for granted in modern messaging apps, such as read receipts, group chats, and better photo and video support.
Messages will use either RCS or SMS, depending on what the contact you’re chatting with has access to (factoring in their SMS app, phone, network, and the country they’re in). If RCS is enabled, you’ll see notification bubbles, rather than an “SMS” label in your conversations, and all of the messages in your chat will be end-to-end encrypted.
It’s not the most elaborate or feature-packed app you’ll ever see, but there’s still plenty on offer, especially with RCS. Google can use a dash of AI to set up suggested replies, for example (just like in Gmail), links and numbers can be scanned for spam threats, scheduled messages are supported, and you can also access your chats on the web.
As with Messages by Google, part of the appeal of Pulse SMS is that it can take your SMS out of the confines of your smartphone and let you access it on the web. There’s more to the app as well, though we should point out that some of the advanced features require a premium subscription for $1 a month.
Pulse SMS applies end-to-end encryption as long as the person you’re texting is also using Pulse, and for extra security you can password-protect certain conversations. Chats can be pinned to the top of the interface or organized into folders, and there’s a powerful search feature here too—if you can’t remember exactly who said what and when, Pulse should be able to help.
There’s a lot of flexibility in how you message, with scheduled messages, delayed sending, and support for auto replies. You can get back to messages later by snoozing them, compose messages more quickly with templates, and apply themes to your individual chats. Pulse SMS really does pack a lot on top of the basic SMS user experience.
Chomp SMS is more basic than Pulse SMS—but for a lot of people, that’s going to be perfectly fine. It focuses on the most important job of an app like this, which is the sending and receiving of SMS messages, wrapping it all up in a no-nonsense interface (if you want to add a bit more flair, there are a variety of app themes available).
That’s not to say there aren’t some handy features included in Chomp SMS. The Quick Reply feature, for example, lets you reply to texts in a pop-up overlay so you don’t have to leave whichever app you’re currently in. You can lock the app behind a passcode for extra privacy, and you can schedule messages to go out on a certain time and date if needed.
There’s an integrated text backup option here too, but perhaps the best part of Chomp SMS is how you can customize the way you receive messages. Individual contacts can all be assigned their own ringtones and vibrate patterns, so you always know who is getting in touch without actually looking at your phone screen.
SMS Organizer is a “Garage project” from Microsoft, which means it’s something of a side hobby for its developers. While it may not have the profile of the more official Microsoft apps, SMS Organizer is still regularly updated with new features and has plenty to offer if you need somewhere for your SMS conversations to live on your Android phone.
For instance, you can get reminders automatically generated from your SMS messages—about flights, bills, movie outings, or anything that has details stored in a text. You can back up texts, write texts using your voice, and quickly filter your conversation list to see unread messages that need to be dealt with first.
We also like the various customization options available here, from the dark theme option to the way you can play around with ringtones, notifications, and font size. It’s easy to star messages so you can get back to them quickly and to block spammers inside the app. It’s all wrapped in a neat interface that manages to make even basic text look interesting.