Switch from iPhone to Android and the first thing you’ll notice is: no iMessage. For years it’s been Apple’s secret weapon that allows iPhone owners to text anybody from basically anywhere, whether they’re connected to wi-fi or LTE. No switching apps required.
Android owners have a ton more apps to choose from, and often have to decide between texting and messaging. Texts can be sent from wherever there’s cellular service, but they come with data fees and a 160-character limit. Messaging apps like WhatsApp, depend on wi-fi, but are free of charge. However, many require your friends on the receiving end to be using the same app as you. There are hybrid apps for Android that at least compare to iMessage, however; just don’t expect them to put you back in the “blue bubble” zone.
Pros: You can make Messenger your default SMS app, and it works pretty similarly to iMessage. To other people, your texts will appear in their standard texting app. You can send stickers, GIFs and emojis using a convenient search function, and there’s a wi-fi video and voice calling feature that works well. The coolest iMessage-like feature is Games, where you can play games like Pac-Man and Space Invaders in the Messenger app. And conveniently, you don’t need a Facebook account to use Messenger.
Cons: When texting, the app subtly encourages you to send a Facebook Message instead of an SMS. This happens when you search for somebody, as the results will show the person’s Facebook profile and phone number as two separate contacts — and the Facebook profile is always first. If you’re connected to wi-fi, but not LTE, you will only be able to send Facebook messages — not SMS texts. Also note: you can’t replace iMessage with Messenger as your default SMS app on iPhone.
Pros: Textra is a definite upgrade from your Android’s default messaging app. You can change the app’s font, background and color. It also has numerous in-app features that make it easy to search and share GIFs or contact information. Convently, you can schedule messages — if reminders or scheduling birthday texts are your thing. Unlike some other SMS apps on Android, Textra won’t separate group chats with iMessaging friends into individual threads, and if you like to text on your laptop, you can download Pushbullet to enable desktop texting.
Cons: Technically Textra is a free app, but it comes with ads. You can purchase Textra Pro for $3 and be ad-free. Also, Textra is SMS-only, so you can’t send messages in it if you lose your LTE signal.
Pros: Similar to Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts is a one-stop app for voice calling, texting and messaging. Instead of accessing your Facebook and phone contacts, Hangouts accesses your Gmail and phone contacts. If you already spend plenty of time chatting with friends over Google Hangouts on desktop, the mobile app is a no-brainer. It’s also a very hassle-free solution for conference calling.
Cons: There’s no universal search through all of your Gmail accounts. You can switch between multiple Gmail accounts, but it’s not seamless. Also, like with Facebook Messenger, you can only send SMS texts with an LTE connection.