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.
Ever since we first took a look at Motorola's Nexus 6 (and subsequently saw it leaked and finally announced) there's been a question about that blue and white icon in the dock. We learned directly from Google that it would be a new app called Messenger, that sounds like it will - for all intents and purposes - replace the AOSP messaging app that used to appear on stock devices.
The "floating notification" style of app seems to be popular with a small but enthusiastic subset of users. Now those users have at least one more alternative, this time encompassing a wide range of texting and chatting apps. Meet Snowball, designed by a team that's being directly funded by a prospective investment from Google Ventures, among others. The idea behind the app is to create a unified messaging inbox that floats above the rest of Android.
As cool as Google Voice's free text message service is, it has always been a bit barebones. Big features like MMS have been missing for a lot of users, with some notable exceptions. Multimedia Message Service, usually used to simply attach a photo to a text message, is handled by completely different servers at most carriers, causing some problems with Google's forwarding system. It looks like Google has addressed these issues, at least for most people in the US and Canada, finally enabling the sending and receiving of MMS via Google Voice.
Google employee Alex Wiesen announced the new feature on his personal Google+ account.
We were all elated when Hangouts finally gained the ability to make direct calls and text messages on Android. But that upgrade also seems to have broken a few features on the desktop (Chrome extension) version of the service: several users started reporting that they couldn't see incoming Google Voice text messages or recorded voicemails on their laptop or desktop computers, starting on September 12th. Good news, everyone: it looks like that problem is solved.
There have been rumors, speculation, hints in Hangouts updates, and now finally Google Voice is being rolled into Hangouts. The Hangouts app is offering to enable Voice SMS and voicemail via a popup in the conversation list. So check your app now!
It never ceases to amaze me how much rooted users can get done with the Xposed Framework customization engine. The latest add-on module lets you expand the somewhat basic canned responses available on Android Wear-enabled text messaging apps. With WearResponses, you can add in just about any custom message to the list that appears on your watch, which should be handy for specific work replies that are too unique for voice detection.
Back in June, PushBullet devs added SMS functionality to their already-powerful client. The only catch was that compatibility was limited to EvolveSMS. Now, just a week after the update that brought universal copy and paste, PushBullet is getting another version bump that brings the ability to reply to SMS messages from a PC regardless of which client you're using.
It's super simple, yet incredibly useful: upon receiving an SMS message, PushBullet will send a notification to your PC (you'll need either the Chrome extension or Windows Client installed).
A single SMS message is generally limited to 160 characters, which gives it the potential to be a very concise means of communication. If, however, you feel that the point of your message will be hard to convey in such small snippets, Hangouts has a feature for you.
Hangouts allows users to specify a subject for SMS messages. Simply hold the send button for a moment, and a subject box will appear as shown below.