We were begging Google to add SMS to Hangouts for so long, and now it seems like a case of be careful what you wish for. Well, at least there's the new Messenger app. This SMS alternative from Mountain View is getting an update today that makes it prettier, which is always nice.
It looks like there are just the two changes this time. First, that laggy sliding animation when you opened a thread is gone. Now you get the standard material touch effect and the conversation pops up smoothly. If you go into People and Options from the overflow menu in a conversation, you can change the theme color manually. You've got a couple dozen to choose from. The colors existed before this update, but they were assigned randomly.
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.
File name: com.google.android.apps.messaging-1.0.130_(1616457-08)-10130508-minAPI16.apk.
Version: 1.0.130 (1616457-08) (10130508) (Android 4.1+).
[Thanks, Eric Mullen]