Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

App Spotlight: Handcent SMS

by Eric Stewart on Oct.11, 2010, under Cell Phones & Providers, Technology

Frequent visitors to my blog should be aware by now that I’ve had Blackberry phones, in addition to my year with the Palm Pre.  On both of these platforms (needing a patch to do so on the Pre), I’ve had customized SMS tones for the people I regularly text with (which happens a heck of a lot more than using the phone as a phone).

So, when I moved to the Samsung Epic 4G, it was something I was greatly interested in setting up.  Depending on what I might be in the middle of, certain people can wait for me to read their text messages.  Certain other people … well, I am married and like to know what she has to say right away.

Alas, Android does not have custom per-contact SMS tone settings by default (it’s possible you might come across a phone manufacturer that has added that functionality as part of their custom front-end).  A quick browse of some forums put me on the path towards Handcent SMS (which, actually, I’ve kind of blogged about already).

It’s not perfect by any means.  Personally, I have encountered duplicate SMS messages, particularly when I’m in the middle of an active exchange of texts.  In addition, I have yet to figure out how to set someone’s custom tone without actually getting a text message from them first, and changing the tone while you’re viewing the thread for that individual.

Those flaws aside, I still consider it a four-star app.

Dark theme

You can also customize the chat layout, and it can even pull in a contact’s image (yes, even so that it will look like that phone that must not be named), say, from Facebook (if you’re syncing your Facebook contact data).  You can even set up an icon of your own.  Per contact customization options extend even down to the text color/background.  You can lock a message in a thread, and then delete the thread, with the options to keep or delete locked messages.  You can have it notify you when you successfully send a message (if you’re like me and have a basement office, it could give you some peace of mind to let you know that the message was sent), or notify you when a message fails to send (which I use more often than I’d like), both with their own custom sound.  If a message fails to send, you are offered the opportunity to attempt to resend the message.

My only other regret with this app is not an issue with the app itself, but with the TouchWiz front-end Samsung has put on the Epic 4G.  While TouchWiz is a decent interface, on the Epic 4G the four bottom icons are locked and cannot be changed, so you can’t swap out the default messaging icon for Handcent’s (or Handcent’s widget).  You can go through the process of setting Handcent SMS up as your default messaging app, but there will still be cases (but very few) where you’ll end up using the default app instead.

So, if you’re looking for SMS per contact tone customization, I recommend Handcent SMS.

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