So in an effort to prepare all of you for lollipop in an "ease into it" kind of fashion, I've come to find that many are either hesitant over the newly included messaging app, or would rather prefer Google's Messenger app over Textra. It has also occurred to me that many users don't actually know the difference between the two (other than the fact that Textra comes with a dark skin default which is changeable). So I have taken the time to compare the many different abilities and functions that each app provides in comparison to each other (at user level).
I hope that you find this informative enough to make a decision in the future as to which you would prefer. So without further delay, I present to you my review.
Now many of you may not care about the messaging app as you've selected Hangouts to be your default SMS receiver. For those of you like myself however that prefer SMS messages to be kept separate from hangouts, this may be of good use to you.
So to the Left we have Messenger and to the Right we have Textra.
Right off the bat you will notice that Textra does a full system theme where your status bar coloring is altered to reflect the theme (as with most of our apps including our Kit Kat stock Message) where as in Messenger it remains untouched.
You will also notice that the contact icons in Messenger are slightly larger than those appearing in Textra which I personally feel would limit the amount of text being displayed due to the "create a new message" button covering the last recent message. Yet the font is slightly larger in that of the Textra app making it easier to read which is what we care about most in a messaging app.
Both layouts appear to be nearly identical with exception to color.
Here we have an example where a single message has been long pressed.
In Messenger, the message selected is indicated by a slight discoloration of the field in which the text inhabits along with changing the contact icon to a Blue Checkmark (which only deselects the message if pressed). Notice also the create a new message icon disappears (as it is not needed for this current function).
In Textra, the message selected is indicated by a highlighted check mark that shuffles in from the left of the message (shuffling the message dates to the right off screen). Additionally, the create a new message button in the bottom right corner becomes a grayed out Checkmark which when pressed, changes color and selects every message currently in the chat summary. However, there is no Archive function built into Textra as there is in Messenger which for some of you, very well may be a deal breaker as you may actually use that function (I don't).
The options that appear above in Messenger are that of cancel (go back), Archive, Delete, and options.
The options that appear above in Textra are that of cancel (go back) Silence notifications, delete, and options.
In the following two images, we see what a multi message selections looks like in both Messenger on the left, and Textra on the right.
Immediately in Messenger, the options button vanishes and converts into simply silence notifications (as that is apparently the only multi message function it can perform).
However in Textra, the options to silence, delete, and "options" remain.
I have gone and deselected one of the messages in both Messenger and Textra so that we can compare and explore the options that are presented for a selected message (since it disappears in Messenger if multiple messages are selected). However, I have included the multi selected messages in Textra also so that you can see the options remain unchanged.
To the left, Messenger displays the only options to be Silencing notifications (which for some reason was not available until multi messages were selected) Add contact which adds the person to your contacts if not already, and block or “blacklisting” (which prevents you from receiving their messages).
To the Right, Textra displays Notifications Settings, Bubble Color settings, Delivery Report settings, Signatures, and black listing. Keep in mind also that silencing notifications is already present in the main window as well.
Since we pretty much already know what Notifications off, add contact, and block do, we will go over them through Textra while we explore the additional options it has to offer in the next images to follow.
We now are looking at the notifications settings specifically for the selected messages. What you will notice, is that in Textra you can define message/people specific themes, options, and settings.
In here you can enable or disable notifications on the main page.
Tap Notifications allow you to select the action to be taken when you tap a message notification from that specific message/person. You can choose to open a floating quick reply window that will disappear after you send a message and resume whatever activity you were currently doing, or you can have it open textra like most stock messaging apps will do.
Floating notifications settings will allow you to decide the duration of the pop up notification for that specific contact (should you decide to have pop up notifications in the previous setting)
Notification Icon Settings allows you to decide what color that selected contact/message should appear in. As you can see, there are 44 different color options to choose from (wow!)
LED Blink Color is an awesome option for phones that support it. You have the ability to specify what color your selected message/contact should appear in when you have received a message from them. While our device doesn't support every color listed, I have taken the liberty of providing you with the huge variety of LED colors that actually do work for our device: Green & Red.
Default Notification sound although "says" Ringtone, actually pulls from your notifications folder (like it's supposed to).
Vibrate Settings allow you to set specific vibration instructions for that particular selected contact/message.
Now, if you've elected to allow vibrations, you can go so far as to even select contact/message specific vibrate patterns!
Wake Up Screen options allow you to decide whether or not a message from that particularly selected individual should wake your phone and turn screen on or not.
Repeat notifications let's you decide how often your phone should harass you for not checking or acknowledging the newly received message per contact/person. Hey if it's mom you may actually want it to keep telling you her message is waiting to be seen
This ends all the options available for Notifications.
Backing out now we select the option to go into Bubble Colors for the specific contact/message. You can decide what color your text bubbles should be in, and what color their text bubbles should be in. Check it out, you have 42 color options
This ends the options available for Bubbles.
Backing out now we select the option for Delivery Reports
Here you can decide if you want to receive a report for a MMS or SMS message successfully received by the end user's device to which you sent a message to. Very handy for those who claim they never got your message or simply informative to you for those who honestly didn't receive it and perhaps should be called.
This ends the options available for Delivery Reports.
Backing out now we select the option for Signatures to be displayed in your messages to these specifically selected individuals. After having opted to include a message, you can edit and create your own. Note that after confirming your new signature, the signature displayed looks overwritten but a quick back out and back in to the Settings will provide you with visual proof of the correct change. (This is likely a glitch they are probably working out).
This ends the options available for Signatures.
Backing out and selecting the Blacklist option will immediately BlackList (block) those messages selected from ever being received to your device again. Don't worry however, as this can be undone by going to the main settings for the app outside of these message specific options we've explored through this review. Pay no mind to the fact that I just blacklisted my mother-in-law by "accident"
Deselecting all the contacts in both Messenger (Hey what was this app for again?) and Textra, we are now able to enter their Primary App Options via the same options button to the top right of both apps.
Notice that since Messenger has Archive functions, you are able to go into your Archived Messages as seen in the image above. Since I don't have any messages archived, none will appear but if you had used it to Archive them, that is where you would find them. This is the same feature that is present in Google Hangouts where you can archive a conversation for later viewing (and to keep it out of your primary chat summary).
On the main page you will see a search button (magnifying glass). Perhaps you had a conversation with someone a long time ago in your messages about a certain topic but can't remember who it was or when it took place. To easily recall that conversation, you can type in a word or phrase used in the message as indicated in these examples.
A very crucial thing here to note, is that Messenger will only highlight and provide you with the very last time the subject was ever discussed and take you back to that moment in time via clicking on it.
Textra however, will display a brief message from each and every time that particular subject was discussed and take you to that exact moment in time you were looking for by clicking on the specific search result.
Since it will be extremely brief, due to the minimal activity taking place in this app, we will go ahead and explore the main options taking place in Google's Messenger App first.
As you can see, aside from having 0 message specific settings, only very little remains for any of the global settings. Whether or not you want notifications for all incoming messages, one specific sound for all, whether or not all vibrate or don't, and your typical MMS settings which appear in every MMS app.
Now in Textra's Main Global Options/Settings, we see all the following choices.
Many of these you recognize from the per message/contact options/settings we covered earlier. These will be the primary settings to take place globally in no settings are specified per contact/message.
We will only cover those that were not covered in the individual settings.
Under the "About" option, selecting "What's New?" will give us a detailed change log for all the advancements Textra has made per release.
Enable Debugging is set for times when Textra provides support to you for an issue related to their app (wow)
Tell your friends allows you to share the playstore link for this app via a variety of different sharing options.
Resync Textra does what it says: Basically re-syncs all your messages should you have strayed away experimenting with other apps that intercept messages and wish to return to stability
It will re-sync everything for you without changing any of your settings.
This ends the About Options.
Backing back out into Settings you'll notice a support button. Click this and you will have the option to contact the developers directly with any issues you may have that aren't listed in their provided Q&A/FAQ listed below. They also provide a button to tap to link directly to their Feedback Forum (yeah, they have one).
This ends the Support Options.
Backing back out into the main Settings, there is a Customize Look menu. Here you can change the text size of the fonts being viewed as presented in the image above.
You can also change the Dark Mode Settings to "Off", Dark (default) and Black.
In Theme color, you can change the overal theme color of the entire app! You have 40 selectable themes to choose form. Take notice of the checkmark and circle color of each theme you select. It is the color of your secondary colors like menu option font color, check boxes, etc.
Under the Default Notifications Settings, the only difference you'll see that wasn't discussed before is whether or not floating notifications will appear while the phone is both locked and unlocked (or duration of the notifications).
All the other settings are global and as mentioned before, work for all those who don't have individually set settings.
This ends our exploration of the Settings options.
Now, we go into a message as it appears in Messenger.
Uh oh, my chat window with my buddy Justin is in Pink and White?? Gee thanks Google.. Apparently, Google thought it would be cute to pre-select random theme colors per conversation in your messages. There is no way to change the color options as they appear in this conversation nor can you change any of your chat bubble colors or font sizes.
Long pressing a message as indicated in the second picture above yields a couple options. Delete that single post, return to the chat, Forward that post to another contact, or information regarding that post (type, from, to, sent, received).
There is no multi selection option, there is no swiping side to side for additional options or navigations. However options for the entire message is present without post selection.
Now in Textra, I'm happy to say that I have assigned this theme to the chat with my buddy and I.
Pressing on his image pulls up his personal info and gives me the option to call.
Swiping from left to right in the chat window sends me right back into my main chat summary.
Swiping from right to left however, will display the exact time and date of every sent and received message regardless of the time interval between as indicated in the 3rd image.
Long pressing a message gives me the option to multi-select individual posts where I can either trash them, send them all as a new message to someone in my contacts, forward the messages to another contact, copy the text, lock the individual posts, or share in an email Man I love options!
This concludes my review of both Textra VS Messenger.
I hope you have found it enlightening and will have taught you how to operate either app like a pro by the time Lollipop roms surface.
Guess now I should go and un-blackllist my Mother-In-Law