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Review: GO SMS looks to take away Handcent’s candy

Like many other Android users, I’ve taken the leap and changed from our default SMS application to the popular alternative, Handcent SMS. With it came a wealth of customization options; all in all, it offered a similar, but deeper experience to the default messaging app.

However, while doing research for my upcoming review of GO Launcher, I found the developers (aptly titled “The GO Development Team”) have an SMS app of their own. Eager to keep my apps matching, I installed it, hoping that it would impress me as their launcher had.  

GO’s entry into the SMS app world gave me the impression that they examined what made Handcent great and then tried to replicate it. That’s not to say it wasn’t successful in doing so, but at the same time, I felt almost like I was using a retreading of what I had come to enjoy. The customization options are on par with Handcent’s, and the pop-up notifications are nearly identical: not in the “it’s plagiarized” sense, but in a way that does its job well.

I was able to replicate the skin that I enjoyed using  previously except for the inclusion of contact pictures on every line: this annoyed me a little. Some searching yielded the discovery that not all features are available across all skins, which added to my frustration. Topping it off was the marketplace mechanic of having each individual skin listed as its own downloadable app, but that’s more a flaw of the marketplace as a system than a fault of the developers.

In short, GO SMS is a healthy alternative to Handcent SMS, but doesn’t really provide me any incentive to use it over its competitor. Handcent does all the things that GO does while having the features that I enjoy. I hate to have such small things as contact pictures or a customizable LED color (edit: which I’m told GO does end up having, albeit per contact. Thanks) be the tipping point of whether I use an app or not, but in the case of two things that perform such a similar function, it makes all the difference. Also something to consider is the larger development community around Handcent SMS: the population of skins is much greater.

I recommend using GO SMS if you have a vendetta towards the Handcent SMS developers, or are looking for an alternative for some other reason. It does all the things Handcent does minus a few low-key features – however, if you’ve come to get used to those features, you’ll notice their absence like a flashing red siren.

Download:


I’m Matt Demers, a Toronto writer who reviews apps for Droid Life. If you have a
ny suggestions for things I should take a look at, you can message me on Twitter or at my shiny new Droid Life e-mail.

  • Anonymous

    Much like many other Android users, I was an avid Handcent user and supporter.  Things have definitely gone down hill which led me to stop using it.  I was hesitant, after settling back into stock AOSP for a while, to try GO SMS.  I’ve been using it for a while and can honestly say it feels like I am back with Handcent, which is of course a good thing, but without some of the ish that was happening with it.  

    Especially after checking out the Enterprise GO SMS theme on the Android Market ($2) I can say I won’t be going anywhere.  Perfect.  

    XD

  • Stevetay

    I really like go sms but whats annoying for me is I can’t disable the keypad clicking when I’m texting. Can anyone help please?

  • Wapicke2000

    I started out with handcent. I went back to the native client, an hour later. After all the configuring, and customization, it did not have a function to chose a custom ringtone for the message notification, which was the original purpose of switching clients. I found Go SMS 2 hours later, and have all the options as Handcent, plus a ton more. Don’t ask me to list them, as that would be a sign of me entertaining your lazyNess.

    Willy-bill.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cbanacka Christopher L Banacka

    I am coming from a RIM 8900 and i HATE chat bubbles, i HATE chats with little pictures, i LOVE classic old school GREY BLUE my chat and GREY white other persons chat. with MAYBE their names/timestamp option.
    I want SIMPLE! The default message on my my4g is CLOSE, but the pictures are locked in, and i HAVE to see their name AND phone number, which i dont get at all :s
    Ill be trying out handcent after reading this, then if i dont like it ill go try out go SMS

  • Antxxcore

    only thing i don’t like is the facebook contacts don’t sync up on here. but other than that i love it!

  • Binqker

    Go SMS FTW!!!!! Handscent blows!!!

  • Steven Groves

    I do love the Go Launcher and the GO SMS, but the only problem is that the GO SMS locked up my sending messages. Besides that I would not use anything else. I did have to go back to Handcent but then moved out to use Verizon Messages, again similar to Handcent but not as cool as GO SMS.

  • help me please

    WHY IS THIS SCREWING UP THE ORDER OF MY TEXTS I DONT GET IT???

  • Jazi

    chompSMS anyone? I honestly prefer it to both at this point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000044287556 Steve Spiro

    I was having a few issues with Handcent. Replaced with GO SMS today, and SO much better and more responsive for me on my Droid1.. I’m impressed, and have officially switched. GO, GO SMS!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000044287556 Steve Spiro

    I was having a few issues with Handcent. Replaced with GO SMS today, and SO much better and more responsive for me on my Droid1.. I’m impressed, and have officially switched. GO, GO SMS!

  • John

    Is GO SMS “faster” than handscent? I always feel that Handscent lags a bit on my droidx. Yes, it’s very minor, but there’s a lot packed in with handscent (which is a good thing).

  • Anonymous

    My new favorite sms app I actually enjoy it better than Handcent

  • http://www.facebook.com/xBDAMSx Brandon Dams

    how do you get the pictures to show?

  • Curtisthefox

    Go SMS just works a lot faster than Handcent on my Incredible. Idk why, but that is why I haven’t used Handcent for a while and have been thoroughly enjoying speed and a nice UI combined instead of just one or the other.

  • Anonymous

    You can change the way handcent looks in the options screen so that it doesn’t do the iphone bubbles. Go SMS looks like its coming along well but there are a ton of additonal options that Handcent has that Go just doesnt. (but you actually have to look at the settings screens). Like Handcent locate, MMS templates, skins, etc.

  • Admin

    Has anyone ever tired submitting a bug the to the Handcent developers? They refuse to acknowledge bugs. they don’t respond to emails and they don’t respond on their message board

  • DEEroid X

    I just downloaded it, I hope it works out as great as everyone says it is.

  • Luis

    how do I get my pictures to display?

  • Dr.Hax

    No reason to choose GO over Handcent?
    How bout the fact that GO actually cares enough to support all devices. Handcent only has MDPI (hvga and qvga) artwork, which means if you use Handcrafted t on any high end Android phones, or just any Android phone with a WVGA screen, Handcent looks like CRAP! The developer has had PLENTY of time to address this, but he doesn’t care.
    Go SMS actually gas WVGA artwork! High resolution automatically makes it better.
    But I still keep Handcent for one thing – mms. For some reason, Go decides to severely downscale pictures sent over MMS, and yes, I dis increase the MMS file limit. Go doesn’t care.

  • Dr.Hax

    No reason to choose GO over Handcent?
    How bout the fact that GO actually cares enough to support all devices. Handcent only has MDPI (hvga and qvga) artwork, which means if you use Handcrafted t on any high end Android phones, or just any Android phone with a WVGA screen, Handcent looks like CRAP! The developer has had PLENTY of time to address this, but he doesn’t care.
    Go SMS actually gas WVGA artwork! High resolution automatically makes it better.
    But I still keep Handcent for one thing – mms. For some reason, Go decides to severely downscale pictures sent over MMS, and yes, I dis increase the MMS file limit. Go doesn’t care.

  • http://www.facebook.com/markb424 Mark Bradford

    You also ignored that Handcent makes you pay for backups where as GO SMS offers it for free. I do agree that that looks are really similar. Oh, and Go Sms is also faster. Handcent felt bloated to me.

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      I use a different app to backup my SMS, and didn’t consider it for either, really. Thanks for that heads-up. Will consider it next time.

  • Gordon Bombay

    GO SMS has been considerably less laggy for me. I’m not sure why.

  • Anonymous

    People actually LIKE popups?!

    I can’t stand them! I love the way that the stock system works with the notification bar and nothing interrupting what it is I’m doing.

    • http://twitter.com/Payaso_113 Freddy

      I like having them. Instead of doing what im doing and knowing i have pull down the notification bar I can just reply instantly. While getting back to what im doing. To each their own.

    • http://twitter.com/Payaso_113 Freddy

      I like having them. Instead of doing what im doing and knowing i have pull down the notification bar I can just reply instantly. While getting back to what im doing. To each their own.

    • http://zombine.com Dr. Zombine

      notification bar <3

  • Irish22022

    you ignored the fact that it’s a third of the size and faster then the stock sms app, as well as twice as fast as handcent.

    and the pop ups aren’t identical at all. you can select themes for the pop ups and make them look totally different then the boring pop ups for handcent.

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      I find it really hard to say that something is “faster” than another without emperical data; for instance, my Milestone is overclocked, while a stock one (or an OG Droid, for that matter, might not be.)

      I really want a good benchmarking tool for apps.

  • Anonymous

    I used Handcent for the longest time and never saw all the hype surrounding it. I thought the UI was unappealing. I would rather stick to stock and SMS Popup (which I found out allows you to customize LEDs) that simply did it for me. But looking at this I think I might just have to give it a GO!

  • http://twitter.com/mnguyea David Nguyen

    I discovered GO SMS awhile ago and been using every since. Reason it is a lighter app than what I think Hancent has become…bloated. I don’t tend to customize other than contact sync and chat style and not really into the whole theming which people seem to love. The pop ups have a slight lag to when you close it to the notification bar but is is so slight that I can live with it.

    The app is light. It does what I needed to do and they are constantly updating so it is getting faster and better.

    It does everything I need it too do in a small package. I actually like the GO Launcher and Go Weather. The great thing is that they are constantly improving the app so it is getting better and faster.

  • http://twitter.com/mnguyea David Nguyen

    I discovered GO SMS awhile ago and been using every since. Reason it is a lighter app than what I think Hancent has become…bloated. I don’t tend to customize other than contact sync and chat style and not really into the whole theming which people seem to love. The pop ups have a slight lag to when you close it to the notification bar but is is so slight that I can live with it.

    It does everything I need it too do in a small package. I actually like the GO Launcher and Go Weather. The great thing is that they are constantly improving the app so it is getting better and faster.

  • guest

    GO SMS sends my picture messages every time. It usually takes me 3 or 4 tries with Handcent to send a pic. That was the breaking point.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been using verizon’s VCast messaging app for a few days, and I actually like it. I can’t stand Handcent for a few reasons, but I think I’ll give this GO app a shot after I get sick of the VCast SMS app.

  • Joe Smith

    I tried GoSMS for about a week. It is almost as good as Handcent except for ONE thing… which was crucial in me un-installing it. If you get messages and the pop-up screen comes up and you click on the (x) to close it out after reading it, the message does not stay in the conversation. It automatically gets deleted. I was texting a conversation in this way and found that all my sent messages were still there but all the messages that was sent from the person I was communicating with were not. BIG FAIL!!! You would think that clicking the (x) would just close the window and send the message to the conversation, but it didn’t. Handcent all the way!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1603800094 Cody Clay

      I haven’t used GoSMS in a few days, but im pretty sure mine were never deleted when i hit the x. I’ll have to test this.

    • Anonymous

      I Actually had this exact issue, I contacted the dev and no responce. I figured it out. You need to make sure the stock messaging app is still working just with the notification off

    • Irish22022

      this happened to me a couple of times, contacted the dev and he asked me if I was rooted. I said yes. He asked if I had deleted or frozen the stock messaging app, I said yes.

      that was the issue.

      Don’t think that’s how GO sms actually operates though, it’s just that one circumstance.

  • shr1k3r

    don’t install go SMS and verizon messaging app… texts were delayed for hours

    • Anonymous

      I noticed that with the VCast msging app. It was a real pain in the a$$ this weekend. Uninstalled and haven’t had any problems.

      • shr1k3r

        I uninstalled both out of frustration but go was working great until I
        installed the VZW app. This article was spot on with the review imo

  • uncle paul

    Switched from Handsent to GOSMS a few months back and would never go back to Handsent, GOSMS is more polished and less bloat, and looks prettier too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/beneubank Ben Eubank

    GO Looks better than the alternative. As a superficial person this is all I need to make me happy.

    Although it’s weird that half the themes available for this are 2011 oriented.

    Handcent just looks cheap – a common theme for many Android apps.

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      Hey man, my review is just that – my opinion.
      If it works for you, by all means, go for it. It’s not a bad app by any means; just didn’t have the things I wanted in it.

      • Dinofan01

        stop taking offence. He didnt say anything to say your review was wrong. He too was expressing HIS opinion. Get over it.

        • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

          I.. wasn’t?
          It’s difficult to express tone via text sometimes, but I assure you, I didn’t take offence.

          • http://twitter.com/andriakaye Andi Kaye

            what is the skin showing in the screenshots? i want! :)

          • http://twitter.com/andriakaye Andi Kaye

            what is the skin showing in the screenshots? i want! :)

          • http://twitter.com/andriakaye Andi Kaye

            what is the skin showing in the screenshots? i want! :)

          • philll

            you guys need to learn how to spell “offense” lolz

      • http://www.facebook.com/beneubank Ben Eubank

        Umm… yeah totally didn’t even read your review. So… okay.

  • Joanna Jadore

    Exact reason why I stick with handcent. I want my pink led! Lol

    • Dinofan01

      you can change your default led AND on a contact to contact basis.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Upstreammiami Ronald Valdes

    im good with my miui messaging app

  • Anonymous

    i still don’t understand why people care so much about messaging apps. what “great features” are there that make it better than using google voice’s free texting? imo, nothing beats that…

    • Anonymous

      the fact that not all my friends have GTalk

      • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

        This. And forget about trying to get people to use Kik.

        • Nemesis

          I’ve tried all , chomp, go and handcent

          and used and customized them in very depth

          so far GO SMS is best, but only missing 1 feature : write new > add recipient > recent

          there should be recent sms log / call log

          just like Handcent else it’s awesome and much much lighter than Handcent

      • Anonymous

        gtalk=/=google voice. uninformed people like you are what make texting so profitable for the carriers.

        google.com/voice

        • Anonymous

          And its people like you who make the internet such a bad place to learn things

          • Anonymous

            how do i make it a bad place to learn things? i make it a better place by criticizing the ill-informed until they feel so bad they either leave and stop filling this site with nonsense or they become informed and then contribute good things to this site. i am the hero this site needs, but not what it deserves. i am its dark knight.

        • Anonymous

          And its people like you who make the internet such a bad place to learn things

        • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

          I’d be using it if it was available in Canada.

        • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

          I’d be using it if it was available in Canada.

        • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

          I’d be using it if it was available in Canada.

      • Anonymous

        gtalk=/=google voice. uninformed people like you are what make texting so profitable for the carriers.

        google.com/voice

      • http://www.facebook.com/ThornfullessRose Devin Jones

        thank you!

  • Jonathon_flores

    glad to see these guys getting some recognition. This really is an amazing app. With all the updates over the past few weeks, I don’t see how it won’t take over handcent in the very near future.

  • Anonymous

    I’m just glad that GO SMS doesn’t use the stupid iPhone-like chat bubbles. I feel like 99% of the text messaging apps for Android try to replicate the iPhone interface. I don’t want my Android phone to look like an iPhone, I want it to look like an Android phone.

    • Anonymous

      diddo

      • Anonymous

        “Ditto”.

        • Anonymous

          that too

          • Anonymous

            ^ that

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      Well, to be honest, that was the default option. The screens are after I skinned things.

    • http://twitter.com/hpizzy Hiral Patel

      I agree if I want an iphone look I will get an iphone – Android is for a techy so give me techy not bubbly.

  • Nessajane03

    Meh. I love Handcent too much to start over.

    • Salsa_33

      I used to love Handcent but it got really buggy. It wouldn’t notify me of new texts. It would automatically blacklist new contacts. It would unblacklist people on my blacklist. The list goes on, so I’m giving this GO SMS thing a try.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000044287556 Steve Spiro

        Same here…

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000044287556 Steve Spiro

        Same here…

      • Nessajane03

        I’ve never had issues like that…

      • http://alofamily.blog.com Jryalo

        i used to be happy with handcent until i noticed it doesn’t pull gmail contacts when you create a new message. you can’t simply find them there. chomp and go sms can do this. go sms is neater :-)

  • Alphabets13

    you can customize LED colors for contacts using GO.

    • http://zombine.com Dr. Zombine

      Time to make my ex’s color red.

    • Raven

      Can you customize LED colors for each contact in Handcent? I heard you could, but have not been able to find the options.

  • http://twitter.com/bluetorch Micah

    I’ve tried GO SMS and I was able to customize the color of the LED notification. I agree about the adding of skins from the Market. It’s messy and confusing.

    Good review.

  • Don

    I have been using Go since it came out. I must admit it was rocky in the beginning, but has come a really long way for the better. I love it now and use it exclusively. I’m glad to see there is some recognition going out to the Go Dev Team for an awesome app, that just keeps getting better.

  • Johnny

    Firsties!