Short messaging services (SMS) are very popular, but can end up costing you a lot if you don't have an unlimited plan for your smartphone. All the apps in this collection offer more features than standard SMS clients, and can often be more fun to use. For instance, some send pictures, show you when a message is read by the recipient, or send videos and voice clips. There's even an app that lets people without smartphones reply to you from a user-selected phone number.
Kik is a simple yet functional messenger app. No other service can match it for speed. Single-letter notifications on chat bubbles show you when the message is being sent (S), is available on the recipient's device (D, for delivered), and has been read (R). It's supported on several platforms, making staying in touch with people who have different phones and carriers easy. The only flaw is that while you can enable or disable notifications of messages, you are unable to set a custom notification tone for this app.
Google Voice is an interesting choice compared with the other apps shown here. It lacks many of the defining features of the others, such as the capability to share pictures. However, it is powerful in its own right. Google Voice can actually send and receive SMS messages via data by assigning you a Google Voice phone number to use with the app. This means you can use this service to stay in contact with friends who don't have smartphones, without being charged for SMS. There is also a Web management interface available, should you find yourself unable to use your mobile device.
PingChat! is packed with features. On top of the standard picture-sharing option, this app allows you to easily share your location and contacts with the people you're talking to. You can even link your social media accounts to PingChat!, making it easy to find and add your friends for group chats. One downside is that this app is supported by ads, with no paid alternative. However, with all the functions this messenger has, it's easy to forgive it.
LiveProfile's account system is great for people with multiple devices. Being registered via e-mail rather than phone number means you can switch devices often and quickly without worrying about losing messages or contacts in the process. This service provides you with a status message so you can let all your friends know your whereabouts or activities with one click. This message can also be posted from the app directly to your Twitter of Facebook account. The heavily beveled finish on the app can be a positive or negative, depending on your style.
KakaoTalk is a powerful alternative to SMS. Packed full of features such as picture, video, and audio sharing, there isn't much you could want out of a messenger app that KakaoTalk can't do. The app features some customization options for those who like to personalize the way their phone looks. For those who like to keep their messaging history private, there's even an option to password lock your conversations.
This table shows the supported platforms and features of the SMS alternatives. Keep in mind that app creators may add or remove features from their software, so it's always best to download the latest version.