Switched to Chomp SMS. Much much much much nicer. Still has the annoying notification sounds while in a chat. I emailed support and they got RIGHT BACK TO ME TODAY. Said it's not a function... yet. They noted feedback, whatever that means. Hopefully they address it in the future.
On a side note, I setup my ME.COM (apple icloud) email and it was BEYOND easy. Just had to enter my email address and Sense Mail did the rest!! Very nice!!