Before the release of Android 4.4, stock Android came with a basic SMS app. It served as a simple way to exchange text messages the old-school way, without dealing with data connections or usernames. Then the functionality got merged into Hangouts, and while a new standard Messenger app is returning for 5.0, there are many people with devices that won't see that update for months—if ever.
That leaves plenty of room for a basic texting app, one without a fancy name or a distracting icon, and one that doesn't look out of place compared to Google's first-party offerings. After many months in development, QKSMS could be just the thing.
Look and Feel
A quick trip to the Play Store page shows that QKSMS is clearly Material-inspired. A FAB floats in the corner of the screen, which you tap to create a new message. Underneath a tinted status bar is a UI with colors that pop and animations that accompany every action.
Since I tested QKSMS on a Nexus 5 still running stable software, Android 4.4.4, my screenshots all have a black (default) or transparent status bar (but later in this post you find an easy way to get around this). I've included the shots above so that you can see how the experience looks on a device running Lollipop. Regardless of where you install the software, everything between the two system bars will look the same.
From the moment you open the app, the emphasis on style is front and center. Your first decision to make is to pick up a color that will determine the look of the interface. By default there are 19 choices, but you can get over 170 by upgrading to QKSMS+ as a 99 cent in-app purchase.
With QKSMS+ (right), you can pick different shades of the initial 19 colors.
QKSMS keeps your conversations listed on the left and your previously open screen tucked on the right, leaving the FAB awkwardly hovering farther inward than usual.
The design took a moment for me to grasp, as I expected my conversation thread to always show up on the right. But the settings page appears there too if it's the last thing you had open. To make the conversations list take up the full screen, you have to find the option tucked away at the bottom of Settings > Appearance.
For people who prefer a darker theme, there's a night mode that will turn black on white into white/gray on black.
QKSMS lets you choose to use a tinted/transparent status or navigation bar. Whether you should is entirely a matter of personal preference. I'm pretty ambivalent towards the status bar, but I find the transparent navigation bar to be pretty tacky.
Users also have the ability to hide avatars, change font size, and alter whether sent or received message bubbles have color.
QKSMS may be just a texting client, but there's a little bit here to sink your teeth into. For starters, there's the Quick Reply feature that lets you respond to messages without having to switch into the main app. Instead, you engage with a pop-up window. It's nothing we haven't seen before, but it doesn't hurt to have around.
This app's pop-up comes with a thick action bar, which takes up a significant amount of on-screen space. When a message appears, you can tap on this action bar to make more text show up within the window. To dismiss the notification, just tap anywhere outside of the area.
Under Settings > General, you can enable support for EndlessJabber, choose to send group messages (instead of separate texts to many recipients), and split long messages into separate texts (or send them as an MMS instead). And hidden under Settings > Advanced, there's the option to enable Lollipop-style tinted status bar if you so choose.
Should You Download It?
QKSMS delivers on its promise of being stylish and simple. Is its UI without flaws? No, but few ever are, and at least this time you have several options to tweak things to your liking. Not only that, everything you need is available out of the box for free, and there aren't any bothersome ads to deal with.
The app doesn't have some of the more advanced functionality of other options out there, and there isn't a particularly strong reason to use it over something similar like Textra. But if you just want something different, QKSMS should fit the bill.