The 5 Best Message Apps for Android

Great text messaging apps for your mobile phone

Probably the most popular and useful feature of constant mobile connectivity is the ability to reach out to your friends and family anytime, anywhere. That fact only makes your choice of communication tools that much more critical. Here are the message apps for Android that deserve your attention.

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Best Classic Text Messenger with Bonus Features: Google Messages

Three screens from Android Messages
What We Like
  • Pre-installed on most Android phones.

  • Nice web interface.

  • Easy to use.

What We Don't Like
  • Connection between the app and the web can be finicky.

  • No iOS app.

  • Limited support.

Google Messages is an easy drop-in replacement for an SMS (regular texting) app. For some Android devices, it ships as the only SMS app. Google Messages is much grander than that, and it all starts with the changes under the hood.

Android wants to send more media-rich messages than SMS accommodates by delivering messages over the internet. Like any SMS app, you can send a regular text message to any mobile device with it and photos over MMS.

However, when connecting with other Google Messages users, you can add media like stickers and videos. Google has also since rolled out Messages for the web for Google Chrome. After a quick QR code setup, as long as your phone is on the same Wi-Fi network or a cellular network, you can message from your phone or computer.

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Best Unified Text, Audio, and Video Chat App: Google Chat (Formerly Hangouts)

Google Chat welcome page
What We Like
  • Cross-platform.

  • IM, video, and audio chatting come bundled.

  • Built into Gmail by default.

What We Don't Like
  • Not as commonly used.

  • Sometimes lags.

  • Google renamed its chat function several times, creating confusion.

Google's chat system has evolved from older iterations, including Google Talk, GChat, and, most recently, Google Hangouts, to its newest version, Google Chat. Like Hangouts, Google Chat is a cross-platform messenger that delivers direct messages. Features like voice and video calls require you to use Google Voice and Google Meet (respectively), which you can also access directly from Chat.

Because Chat is built into Gmail, it lets you communicate with practically anyone with a Gmail account, and it's great for groups and teams.

Google Chat is part of Google Workspace, Google's integrated app platform designed for communication and collaboration that also includes Gmail, Calendar, Chat, Meet Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Google Workspace is freely available to all Google account holders, though there are paid tiers that add additional features and functionality, including an Individual plan for $9.99 monthly that's ideal for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

To get started with Google Chat and Google Workspace, go to your Gmail settings and select See All Settings > Chat and Meet, then select Google Chat.

Once you get started with Google Chat, you'll be able to ping anyone with Gmail open on Chrome, or with anyone with the Chats app installed on iOS or Android. All of this comes with the peace of mind of industry-standard encryption. 

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Best Secure and Usable Mobile Communication App: Signal

Three screens from Signal for Android
What We Like
  • End-to-end encrypted messaging.

  • Nice features like audio messages and file transfer.

  • Group chats.

What We Don't Like
  • Some features are patchy.

  • Doesn't integrate as well as Google apps.

  • Can interfere with other messaging apps.

Initially catering to the privacy-conscious at its debut, Signal has gained an immense following and a bevy of features over the last few years.

The core of Signal’s experience is SMS-like internet messaging protected automatically with state-of-the-art encryption. Along with texts, though, Signal lets you voice and video call other Signal users with the same effortless encrypted protection. It allows the more paranoid users to enable extra privacy and security features, such as disappearing messages, screenshot blocking, and generic lock screen notifications saying you have a new message, but without the message text or sender name.

Despite its focus on security and simplicity, Signal offers modern comforts like emojis and stickers and novel features like leaving recorded voice messages and sending files.

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Best Messenger-Social Network Hybrid App: WhatsApp

Three screens from WhatsApp for Android
What We Like
  • Blurs the line between a messenger and photo-first social media.

  • Plethora of supported media.

  • Elegant and intuitive.

What We Don't Like
  • Some of the downsides of social media.

  • Privacy features aren't enabled by default.

  • Sometimes freezes.

The Google Play Store is saturated with messengers. WhatsApp stands out from the rest as it bridges the gap between a traditional messaging app and a social network.

WhatsApp starts with a dependable messenger and layers on social network-style features like status messages and status photos, all while emphasizing photo capture and sharing. Its built-in camera gives you a handful of Instagram-quality filters, and it puts the camera in a tab, one swipe away from the home screen. Far from coming off as gimmicky, WhatsApp manages to blend these influences in a way that feels freeing.

This social networking feel doesn't come at the expense of privacy, though. In settings, you can choose who is allowed to see your status messages and photos. On top of all that, the app is encrypted with the same ironclad protocols that Signal employs. Overall, WhatsApp serves up messaging with a social media twist, topped off with best-in-class encryption.

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Best App for Crystal Clear Calls and More: Skype

Three screens from Skype for Android
What We Like
  • Solid messaging system.

  • Crystal-clear quality.

  • Runs on every major mobile and desktop OS.

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't do much besides IM and calls.

  • Skype spam.

  • Can be buggy.

Skype has been a significant player in video conferencing for a while now, making a name for itself with snappy video calls with high-quality audio.

Along with calling, Skype also allows modern instant messaging between any mobile device with a Skype app installed and any laptops or desktops with a Skype client. This considerable reach is due to its Microsoft backing, and it has continued to profit from this relationship. Chiefly, Microsoft recently integrated Cortana, its virtual assistant, into Skype so that you can message it with questions and requests.

You can use Skype as your phone, connecting to other Skype accounts, cellphones, and landline phone numbers over VoIP. You can designate Skype as your device’s default phone app, elevating the app to the same level of integration as the built-in Phone app.

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