Thanks to a fantastic comment on my last entry about my phone from a helpful stranger, I learned about Handcent SMS which is a free app available for Android phones. Now that I have it, I literally cannot imagine having a phone without these capabilities for SMS again. Seriously.
Handcent lets me do everything that I've ever wanted to do with SMS, and I can only pray that this sort of openness will be delivered in every way on the Android platform. One of the greatest things about Handcent, too, is the fact that the customization of sounds is not limited to SMS - I've been able to throw all kinds of alerts on emails, calendars, etc. all just due to having the application installed. Android (and perhaps the Nexus One, in particular?) has been super easy to trick - all I have to do to make a ringtone is to throw an mp3 into a folder on my SD card labeled Ringtones - no need to even mess with the Ringdroid application, unless I want to tweak some of the time-settings. But now, thanks to the Handcent app, I'm able to pick from the full spectrum of all of the sounds that are on my phone, not just the ones that I've altered into notifications, alerts, or ringtones. This is an ideal solution, but it'd be even better if it was the default. Hopefully, the Android platform will grab a few of the better ideas from these various applications, and write them into the baseline OS for the future releases, as Apple used to do with the jailbreakers.
If the homepage of Handcent doesn't give you enough of an idea of what the program is, let me break down some of the best parts, for me: first of all, the pop up screen. This is even better than the iPhone's, because it allows for replies right from the popup. Additionally, if there are multiple notifications up, it's possible to customize the application so that the user can flick through them. (This can also be avoided, if you want to prioritize privacy - options are amazing!) The popup screen also doesn't have to allow replies, in a doubling of the options comments. There are also options to customized ringtones for individual contacts' text messages, not just including the sound, but changing the vibration as well.
There are so many good things about this application, and what's promising to me is that they all seem to be things that are embraced by the native OS - when a system is open, it's just bound to work better.