Most veteran users of Android have probably run Handcent SMS at least once over the years. It's still a very popular third-party SMS app, but the design hasn't exactly kept up with the times. Today's update doesn't solve all its ills, but v6.0 does look worlds better than the old version.

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Here's the full list of changes for v6.0.

Handcent SMS 6.0:

  • Beautifully flat UI design with colorful contacts photos for the default skin.
  • Newly added navigation drawer for easier and quicker access.

Handcent Anywhere:

  • Text on computers and tablets. Utilize the bigger screen and physical keyboard for faster texting.
  • Notification Center

Full Android Support

  • Fully compatible with all versions of Android(Include Android L and Kitkat 4.4.4)

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There are a few screens of the old app below, and really, you can't deny that was pretty ugly. The new app is much nicer with flat bars and a proper navigation slide-out menu. The Handcent Anywhere feature is apparently a cloud syncing improvement that lets you send messages from a tablet or web browser like you would from your phone. It works across Android, iOS, and Windows Phone on the mobile side.

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Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play.

  • Nicolas Leotier

    They barely catch up with HOLO when they should focus on material... I never liked this app and this won't help

    • Tomasz Kuczynski

      It was a must for me when I got my original Droid with the slide out keyboard... not so much anymore.

      • hannes

        Yup, best app ever back with 1.5 on the G1.
        That SMS popup... <3

  • BrentKensey

    Why does it seem like some developers spend all of this time developing new UIs and then trip over the smallest things? Why is the notification icon still colored? Why is the menu button out of order on the Action Bar? Wierd.

    • BoFiS

      Notification icon is customizable with many choices, some of which aren't colored if you're into that sorta thing. The menu button does not have a standard place, and Handcent has ALWAYS had compose new message at the upper right of the contact list, and call contact as the upper right button in the conversation view. So I think they did that to keep those elements consistent. Besides, if you have a hardware menu key (or can long press on your multitask for menu) you don't ever have to reach up and tap that menu button anyway.

      This update makes Handcent SMS, which I have always loved and used for messaging, even better, especially if receiving, replying, and composing SMS from a browser is useful to you :-)

      • BrentKensey

        Notification icon customization is a poor excuse for having the wrong default. All notification icons should be white. All of them.

        Furthermore, doing things wrong historically is not a reason to continue doing them wrong. The menu button does, in fact, have a standard place defined by the Android platform, which is either the upper right on a non-extended action bar or at the bottom right with an extended action bar. Clearly, Handcent decided to write their own action bar code and didn't adhere to platform expectations. Hardware buttons don't excuse this. It may not be a big deal to some folks, but I want to see the Android community achieve the level of design and consistency that iOS users enjoy, and this just isn't it.

        • Darrkman

          Notification icons must be white?? Why? Seriously, if I like it to be blue or green or orange how is that wrong?

          • BrentKensey

            Because it's an established platform convention. See developer.android.com/design/style/iconography.HTML (bottom of the page)

            Furthermore, excessive customization is not an excuse for crappy defaults. In most cases, apps would be better off by providing fewer but smarter options. And I say this as an android developer and designer.

            Are you wrong for liking it? No. People have all kinds of idiosyncratic likes and dislikes. The developer, however, is reaponsible for adhering to established app behaviors and UI styles if it wants the app to be quality app. In this case, the developer didn't, which is why half of the comments on this article are negative.

          • Darrkman

            I've used Handcent, Evolve, Textra and Chomp and they all give you the ability to change the color of the notification icon. At this point you're just looking for something to complain about.

            Its amazing.

          • martin golder

            He said the default should be white. Not that it has to be white or nothing, just that default should be white. Meaning if you then want to change the colour, you can afterwards.

          • bingo

            The conventions are wrong. Android became less usable by one hand because of these conventions because the new recommended place for menu button is unreachable by the hand which also reaches bottom toolbar to switch applications. Yes Google wants people to stay in a single application for long to see more advertisements, but users don't have to be sheep, and application developers don't have to herd them to Google

    • Gary Graf

      Why can't you spell weird, right? All these questions, the world may never know.

  • a_n_d_r_e_w

    Back in the pre ICS era, this was my favourite. Looks nice now, maybe I give it a try again.

  • Frank Doyle

    Too bad it doesn't work with Google Voice.

    • bobEveryman

      I've not tried to use it with google voice, but... what do you mean? Can you not do "receive GV texts as SMS"? Will Handcent not read them? Are you talking about direct integration with GV?

  • senor_heisenberg

    I remember using Handcent back when I was on Gingerbread. Was decent back then, but ugly as sin.

  • Scott Kaforey

    To all of you complaining about it being "ugly", you can literally customize just about every aspect of the app and the way it looks. If you think it's ugly, change it!

    • BoFiS

      agreed, I don't even use the stupid staggered, bubble-style for conversations, as I much prefer list-style with what I type and what you type coming from the RIGHT. I've changed colors, fonts, backgrounds, everything to be, what I feel, is aesthetically pleasing and I value an app that has so many customization options rather than none.

    • AnonGuy

      That's too much work. This is not an IDE it's an SMS app. Hand cent and Crunch have always looked horrible. Tried them in 2010 for 3 minutes and Uninstalled. Nothing has changed since then. Being customizable is not an excuse for throwing out a terrible out of the box UX. Don't make excuses for them.

      • Scott Kaforey

        Yeah, taking 5 minutes to make something look the way you want is totally not worth it for an app that you probably use a ton. Not everyone is going to like the way something comes by default, and having it customizable is something that most apps do not allow.

  • Merri Mogridge

    If I texted regularly, my first choice would have to be EvolveSMS, the UI is beautiful! But Hangouts is more than sufficient for the few texts I do send, and has the advantage of coming pre-installed so it's one less app to install after flashing a new ROM.

    • Kylecore

      I only use evolve, and I made a few themes for it. Simply wonderful.

    • http://www.gregpak.com/entries/002275.shtml D.Smithee

      I've installed EvoleSMS three separate times on my old M7 and my new M8--and each time it's been buggy as hell. Beautiful, though.

      • Andrew Spiziri

        Couldn't agree more. I was so happy when I found it but I hit so many bugs I had to abandon ship yesterday. I sent a friend an MMS and then put my phone back in my pocket. He ended up calling me 20 minutes later to yell at my because EvolveSMS apparently freaked out and send the photo to him 82 times in my pocket and dropped 18% off my battery. Only way to get it to stop was to uninstall and restart my phone.

        • http://www.gregpak.com/entries/002275.shtml D.Smithee

          The only two third party SMS apps that offer a reliable experience are chompSMS and Textra--both by Delicious. I've got Textra installed on my M8 right now. I just couldn't deal with Hangouts' MMS weirdness anymore. Love the messaging part of Hangouts, though--wish I could get everyone to just drop texting all together and switch over to Hangouts.

  • remi

    still too gross to look at....i'll stick to Hello

    • sweenish

      I would agree that hello is prettier, but their ToS clearly state that they sell your information.

      • remi

        If I was worried about that I wouldn't use android/Google apps at all.

        • sweenish

          Big difference between the way Google handles your information versus a company outright selling it direct to outside parties that do who knows what.

  • BigTimmay

    Textra. That is all.

    • http://www.gregpak.com/entries/002275.shtml D.Smithee

      a) Because it just works, and b) It's simple.

  • ctk4949


  • zephiK

    I'll stick with QKSMS or chompSMS. QKSMS is still in Alpha and is buggy but is usable, chompSMS is very lightweight and looks good.

  • Juan Sebastian Camargo Visbal

    Looks a bit bloated for an SMS app.

  • bL4Ck

    This was the messaging app to use back in the cupcake/froyo days, now it's pretty much dead.

  • ithehappy

    Let me be absolutely honest, the stock Android SMS app just sucks (can't select multiple contacts easily, no scheduled messaging etc). And I will go to Bane to let him torture me before using Hangouts as SMS app. So since getting my Moto X I was badly looking for a third party SMS app, and one night I tried them all. And needless to say when it's about overall completeness Handcent is the best hands down. Yes, it looks awful, Cupcake time, still, the next best was Chomp, followed by Textra, that's it. All others are more or less same, and some of the are meaningless, like Evo.

    So this is a great news for me, I am definitely gonna try this out now.

    • BrentKensey

      What specifically do you dislike about hangouts? Honest question.

      • http://www.gregpak.com/entries/002275.shtml D.Smithee

        I use it as my daily driver--love the Hangouts messaging, but as an SMS app it's severely lacking, and MMS has always been sketchy.

  • IronPlumber

    I'm pulling for you, Handcent.

    I've used it for awhile now. GoSMS was my go to until they started getting sketchy so I switched. Handcent has the only pop up notification that works the way I want and expect it to.

    • totally_impressed

      i guess you still haven't tried HoverChat..

  • Joe

    I used to use Handcent back when I had an LG Marquee (Gingerbread) but then when I got my S3 I used it for a while before finding out about Evolvesms and I find Evolve much slimmer and not burdened with so much stuff. Might check out Handcent again to see how it feels now but i'm pretty happy with Evolve

  • tonylee427

    and ugly,still

  • AnonGuy

    Ugly, feature bloated app.

    Google needs to get their stuff together with Hangouts and crush these apps and force their developers to learn how to design a decent GUI and not overload the app with cap and options.

  • blindexecutioner

    One thing I have always liked is the ability to turn off contact pictures. There is nothing worse than a screen full of ugly, generic contact pictures.

  • Ano Niem

    Started using Contacts+ as replacement dialer, contacts & text apps on my Moto G Lte. The standard apps (Google or Motorola?) are criminally ugly and too bright white. For text only Textra made a very good impression. But Contacts+ does also dialer- and contact functionality. At least both have black theme as any app and Android itself should always have. Previews of L with all the blinding white makes me wanna puke concerning it's looks.

    • martin golder

      No, Android and all apps do not always have to have black options. What a ridiculous thing to say. You mean you would always like a black option.

  • Harvey

    No thanks. Used to use it, but all kinds of problems with photos and the developers were not responsive. Textra FTW.

  • frhow

    And its still Fugly!!

  • Eisenhorn1976

    I used this app years ago... right around the time of the original Droid and then my Desire Z. I even paid 5 bucks for some extra features like Web backups and online message access.
    I moved to GoSMS for a bit in 2010/2011 but now I'm using Evolve for good. Still, it's nice to see the Dev is trying to modernise the app -- even though it's quite a bit behind the times UI-wise.

  • Kettir

    Handcent has a lot of features that aren't of interest to me, but it functions well and does everything I need it to do. For those who are mad about theming it's nice. Plus let's keep in mind that function should be valued over form.

  • Xergio

    Password for SMSs and schedule messages are the main reasons why I use Handcent.

  • Sokudoningyou

    I haven't updated since December, since before the last "big" update that apparently wiped one's themes and changed the way you could theme, period. Or so many complaints said. Since I like the way I have it, I haven't updated since.

    Now, though, it seems Lightflow doesn't want to play nice with it anymore, so I've been trying to find a new SMS app that lets me customize it the way Handcent does. Chomp sort of does, but keeps giving me "can't load the background" messages, and is slow as crap. Evolve wants me to apparently code a theme instead of letting me select some options. Go SMS wants way too much damn money. Urgh.

  • http://trapchan.blogspot.com trapchan

    that chat bubble sure is ugly ... no it's not because it's bubble, it's just need more padding and i point smaller font

  • http://terminal-interface.com/ Migamix

    I'm sorry.. the flat ui.. that's ugly.. if I want minimalistic I could go apple. I rather enjoyed texture and 3d appearance of my apps..

  • martin golder

    Ahhhh 2009/2010 is back!

  • http://www.gregpak.com/entries/002275.shtml D.Smithee

    It's still pretty eye-searingly ugly.

  • Gary Graf

    Obviously I didn't think it was that ugly before, but man it looks so beautiful now