Powow: Text Messaging is an alternative messaging app made by Handmark, the company that produced One Louder Apps. Now, I know that you're thinking about all of the other messaging apps on the Market and want to know what makes this one special. The fact of the matter is that only a small percentage of the endless waves of similar apps are worth using, and despite missing a couple key features, Powow is one of few I would consider fully committing to.

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As I mentioned before, this app does miss a few key features, but we'll get to that later. Let's first talk about what Powow does right, and why it could be worth the switch from the stock messaging app or from other alternatives.

In my opinion, one of the coolest features has to be Zip It. If you use other apps made by Handmark subsidiary OneLouder Apps, then you may be familiar with this feature already. It has slightly different functionality in this app than others, but shares the same concept across them all - getting something to shut up or disappear.

In Powow, the Zip It feature gives you one of three options to choose from:

  • Mute Notifications - This will turn off all notifications for a particular contact. The messages will still appear, you just won't be notified of them.
  • Blacklist - This will disable notifications and hide messages from the contact in question. A blacklisted contact will only be visible in the "Zipped" tab until they are removed from the blacklist.
  • None - If a contact is assigned to this status, all messaging activities will continue as usual.

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Speaking of the Zipped tab, there are two other tabs that you can use to categorize your contacts and message threads. Basically, if you apply a Zip It status to a contact, they'll appear in the Zipped Tab. You can add particular contacts to the Favorites tab, and can view both favorite contacts and normal contacts in the All tab.

Like many other messaging apps on the market, this one includes a popup notification feature. In most others, I noticed that the popup would take significantly longer to appear than a regular status bar notification. Which really annoyed me and usually ended up being a deciding factor when moving back the stock messaging app. However, with Powow this simply is not the case. The popup notification appears just as quickly as the status bar notification, enabling me to quickly respond without having to leave the app I'm currently in. Additionally, you can open the app, call the person messaging you, or delete the message all from the popup. Naturally, you can disable this feature if you don't want to use it.

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A few more lesser important features (to me) are voice text input powered by Google's voice input technology, call shortcuts that allow you to call contacts through Powow (which should be included in all messaging apps), and a homescreen widget that shows you your last 20 messages. I find the widget to be completely useless, though, because it doesn't do anything more than a notification would.

What It's Lacking

Before I go any further, the features and functionality this app already has greatly outweighs what it's missing, and the missing bits definitely don't make me want to quit using the app. However, if everything was perfect I would enjoy using it much more.

First off, the biggest issue is the inability to opt out of ads (you can't see them in the images above because they disappeared when my phone took the screenshot). I understand that the developer needs monetary compensation to continue developing superb apps, but if there is one place I don't want to see ads it's definitely my messaging interface. I would gladly pay to buy an ad-free version of this app, but it isn't available. Hopefully we'll see one soon.

My second and final complaint is the lack of themes or customizable layouts. I wouldn't really care about a feature like this if Handmark didn't make such bold color choices with the app's UI. Everything else looks clean, well-made, and sleek, but the color scheme just doesn't work for me. Some of you may think it looks nice, but I'm very adamant about how my phone looks and would like the option to make this app fit in with how the rest of my phone is themed.


Well, there you have it. Obviously Powow makes up for what it's lacking with some other killer features. What's great is that these minor issues have nothing to do with functionality and can easily be fixed. Would I use this app over the stock messenger? Yes. I also think that it is definitely one of the top alternative options on the Market. That green and orange color scheme is killing me, though.

Check it out and let us know what you think below.

Brandon Lancaster
Brandon says he likes to live life on the edge. By that he means eating ice cream for breakfast and wearing house slippers to class. Aside from all of the ballsy action he partakes in, he's a mass communications student that spends much of his time studying or tinkering with his phone.

  • eleazar

    I'd love to try it out, but without emoji support, I can't actually switch to it. :(

    I feel like handcent just keeps getting slower and slower. I'm on the prowl for a nice new replacement app (with emoji support).

    • Get it

      check out go sms!

      I used to use handecent, but I found it less visually appealing and sluggish. There's an addon in the market called something like Emoji for goSMS. It's free and does exactly what I want it to!

    • MikeGoff

      eleazar...you should try GoSMS. I've been using it for the past few months and love it. It is fully customizable and has emoji support.

  • zarfleen

    Give GO SMS Pro a look. It has Emoji support with a plugin, and can run in several different modes. Running in "Normal" seems fine, and seems to run leaner than Handcent. There's a "Lite" mode as well, but I haven't tried it.

  • edd

    Altho I don't use Emoji, a big +1 for Go.

  • Dandmcd

    For me, I did the Go SMS, Chomp, and Handcent dance before, but never liked how bloated they were getting. Now that I have ICS on my Atrix, the Messaging app is beautifully simple looking and I stick with it even without support for emoji or even popup texts. I also imagine using the stock Messaging app is good on the battery.

    • Dandmcd

      Oh, and forgot to write it is no go for Powwow. Terrible skin, and ads, no thanks!

  • Geoff

    I'll switch to a new messaging app when I can have IMs, SMS and Google Voice all under the same hood. Until then, since I rarely if every get annoying texts and hate ads, this isn't for me.

  • Evan

    Would try it out but doesn't work with Nexus S 4G thru sprint x(

  • bigmacas

    Can someone please live a link to the .apk?... Seems it is US only...

  • joshua

    No galaxy nexus support. oh well, ICS stock messaging is amazing anyways.

    • Kevin

      I tweeted Handmark about this and they said that they ARE going to have ICS support in the next couple of weeks and along with it will come a HUGE update (adding more features and such, presumably). They claim it "will be worth the wait".

  • sriracha

    i can blacklist with my stock message system. and then GoogVoice takes care of everything else. and no ads.

    i'm sure it's a cool app, but it does nothing i can't already do, or would want to do. and it would be just another foot print on my SD and another drain on my battery. sorry, i'm a bit of a minimalist, not trying to be a downer.

  • CT

    LOL I see you have a stalker on your hands brandon

    • Brandon Lancaster

      Yeah, that Cameron fellow is a big ole' creeper!

  • Dan

    So, Powwow has some of the features of Go SMS except Powwow doesn't have themes, doesn't have emoji, and stuffs ads on your screen. Why would I want Powwow again?

    Thanks for saving us the bother of trying it out.

  • http://www.handmark.com Mike Whaley: Director of Marketing @ Handmark

    Thanks for the comments folks and the in depth review Brandon! We've been listening to all of the comments/suggestions and are making some of the changes that you recommend. Be on the lookout for the ads-free version this week and some sharper UI in future releases.

    • Brandon Lancaster

      It's nice to see a company that takes these things into consideration and aims to fix issues right off the bat. Glad we could help Mike!

    • Kevin

      You should also have mentioned that Galaxy Nexus/ICS support is forthcoming in a major update, as I've heard from whoever handles your Handmark Twitter account. :)

  • scott

    Giving this a try, and my main issue is the keyboard staying on screen after I hit enter.

    Also would be nice to move it to the SD card as well.

  • Willaim N.

    Wasn't going to try it since all the reviews.. and ads.. but once i seen the director say they are working on it from comments. im downloading it now. I wish more company's/programs would get right into the action and release what customers want. i will keep it installed if i don't like it and wait for updates! cant wait!