I’m going to be honest. Since using Android devices, I haven’t come across a single OEM SMS app that I’ve actually enjoyed. A pure generalization from my personal experience is that they are bloated, slow and just plain unattractive. As a matter of fact, I am currently trying to use the LG G3 messaging app and I can’t manage to get the keyboard to display for me to compose a message.
The good news is, as Android users, we have plenty of messaging app options out there. My favorite by far has been Google Hangouts. Hangouts works especially well for me because my full-time job uses Gmail as our primary email client, and Google Chat as a primary means of inter-office communication, so messages from co-workers filter through the same app as my SMS.
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Recently I came across the lesser popular Google Messenger App, and with its recent updates, I decided to give it a try and compare it to Hangouts. I’ve been using Messenger as my daily driver on my LG G3 for about a week now, and here are the unique features, similarities and downfalls I’ve come across.
Like I mentioned above, I’ve used Hangouts as my primary method of texting for a while now, and it’s worked great for me. The largest feature of Hangouts that is unique from Messenger is the ability to have multiple accounts and quickly switch between them. This works great if you use Gmail for both personal and work accounts. In my case particularly, I receive texts through my personal account, and chat messages from coworkers through my work account. It works beautifully.
A downfall to this feature is that if you use Hangouts as your primary SMS app, you’re never fully disconnected from the office. Those chats from your boss will come through just as any text messages. Got that report done yet?
Similar to the ability to manage multiple accounts, Hangouts is great for simply managing multiple messaging options in one account. For instance, if you are using your personal email for SMS, you can still receive chats sent to that account through Gmail all in one place with Hangouts. This makes keeping up with all of your messages as simple as possible.
I’m coming up on a week of using Google Messenger as a my primary SMS app, and I have to say, so far I’m pretty happy. Opposite of Hangouts, It’s kind of nice knowing that when I open the Messenger app, I’m going to be looking at my SMS messages and nothing else. No chats to my email address, and no “Can you do me a favor?” chats from coworkers.
With recent updates, the Messenger app has adopted much of the design language from the Android 5.0 Lollipop Material Design. These changes have created a very familiar experience when switching between the two apps, but Messenger allows for a little more customization when it comes to design. By ‘a little,’ I mean you can designate certain color themes for conversations with assigned contacts.
In addition to that, a huge difference you will notice is the way that attachments are handled. If you’ve used the Facebook Messenger App, you will notice that the two are very similar. If you wish to take a photo to be shared in your conversation, you can do that without actually exiting the conversation. However, if you need to adjust your photo to a wider/longer shot, simply slide up from the bottom to expand the camera full screen. Disclaimer: Photos taken inside of the Messenger app will not be saved to your device. If you wish to keep the photo you just took, select the photo and hit the save icon in the top right corner.
Last, but not least, Messenger also borrows from Facebook Messenger (or maybe iOS) the ability to send sound short audio clips in place of an actual message. Although I haven’t made much use of this yet, I can see it coming in handy while driving or in a situation in which your hands may be full.
As it stands right now, I’m actually ok with switching between the two apps. Since I use Hangouts for work, I can’t get rid of it, but if that was not the case, I’d likely stick to using Google Messenger as my primary SMS app. The design languages are the same, and both apps work reliably, but with the attachment handling and voice text feature, along with the ability to customize colors (it’s all in the details) I think Messenger is a little bit of a fresher, newer experience for me. My one qualm with both of these apps, especially after seeing the similarities between Google Messenger and Facebook Messenger, is that there is no option for some sort of ‘chat head’ style feature. Maybe Facebook has some protection on that feature, but I’d love to see that in an SMS app if possible.
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