Texting is one of the leading forms of communication today. Gone are the days of playing phone tag when you can't get ahold of each other, leaving voicemail after voicemail. Nowadays, you simply shoot somebody a text and have entire conversations, replying only when it's convenient to reply. It's not a new concept by any means at this point, but nonetheless it is still one that changed how an entire generation communicates. By the time I was in high school, I hardly even came close to using my limited minute allotment every month. I much preferred texting.
But just as texting has evolved from phone calls, the method of communication itself has evolved over time. When texting first become popular, it was a simple as that. You sent text messages, and that was it. Phones didn't have cameras on them, and emoticons were as simple as :), :(, and :D. If you were to look at a text message thread today, you would see that a lot has changed since then. Full sets of detailed emoticons, high res picture messages, entire documents, and sometimes even .gif files can be sent through certain text message applications on the market today. While most stock messaging applications allow a lot of these features to be used, third party messaging applications are usually better at providing more features for the avid texter to take advantage of.
I've always pretty much used the stock messaging application. As much as I love to text, gone are the days where I would feel the need to theme my message threads and thoroughly customize my overall experience. Stock usually does everything I need for me. The only third party application that I use for texting (which isn't technically a third party app anymore) is Google Hangouts, because I really like the way it looks and feels. And, unlike a lot of alternative messaging applications, actually lets me continue to text people who don't actually use Hangouts.
It's part of the reason I can't enjoy applications like WhatsApp or BlackBerry Messenger, actually. It's not that I don't have any friends (although really, I don't have that many that I text on a regular basis) but it's pretty hard to convince all of my friends to use a different application for messaging when obviously texting works just fine. Those types of applications seemed more important back in the day when plans didn't always come with unlimited text messages. These days, it seems that unlimited text messaging is one of the easiest aspects of a phone plan to come by for practically nothing. At least, here in the U.S. it is. As it turns out, services that supply free messaging over the Internet like WhatsApp and BlackBerry Messenger do are still fairly popular in other parts of the world where texting still costs quite a bit of money.
There are also applications that serve as just an alternative SMS application with enhancements, like biteSMS for (jailbroken) iOS or Handcent SMS for Android. Although I've used both applications at one point in my life, I always ended up going back to stock because I encountered problems like random force closes or lag that I would rather not deal with for the features I was being given. On the positive side, at least setting an alternative SMS application was an option on those two platforms; such a luxury is not yet available for Windows Phone (but is apparently coming in 8.1, so that's good).
The only other application I use for messaging is Facebook, and one of the nice things about Windows Phone (at least in its current form) is that Facebook messaging is integrated with the stock messaging app. It's a rather seamless transition between the two, and I hope that more platforms allow social network message integration in their stock apps in the future. Aside from that, though, it's pretty much always going to be stock for me. I don't have the need for anything fancy these days.
Readers, what is your preference when it comes to SMS applications? Do you use stock, or is your preference with a different app? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!