While Social media in its newest formats takes up a lot of my time, I find that I do a lot less of other things I used to do, and this sadly includes blogging. I hope to fix that. However, one thing that did not diminish is my time on Instant messenger. IM still serves a purpose even Twitter cannot fill. Ever since I learned how to turn on a computer, I have been an IM junkie. So naturally, when I get a new phone/iPod, good IM software is one of the first things I search for.
The issue is that I have accounts on many different IM networks including AIM, MSN (although, it is just a matter of time before I stop using it because of all the IM spam), Gtalk, Yahoo messenger (I have like 3 contacts), and the newest addition (and a very important one) Facebook chat. So what I need from my iPod Touch is an app that supports all of those protocols and does it well. I have used apps like Fring, which is an awesome app for what it does (Voip and some IMing), I am a HUGE fan of Nimbuzz, although, lately, I am not sure if it is Facebook or Nimbuzz’s fault, they do not seem to be in cahoots with Zuckerberg. I have also tried others like Truphone, which is primarily a VOIP app and it appealed to me less.
My latest app for IM is IM+. My first impression of the company is that they are an industry leader in this field, I see they are compatible for almost all platforms including iPhone, Java, Symbian, Palm, Windows Mobile, and even Blackberry. My 2nd impression is that they do not spend enough on marketing, since in all the forums I have read, almost no one recommends their software as the best choice, and in my opinion, it is because they are not familiar with it. Shape Services, the company that makes IM+ are on the right path if they gave me the app to review, but they need to get their name out there more.
On to the app itself. Setup was seamless and even fun! It supports pretty much any IM protocol you can imagine. Here is the list: AIM, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, Jabber, Gtalk, MySpace, and Facebook chat. Not only that, but they stay on top of their game and their next version will include Skype and…you guessed it…Twitter. OK, it has all the “standard” features including sending photos, location, and audio clips to contacts, and the IMing is easy and fun. You can of course add avatars for you or your friends and you can type on a spacious landscape keyboard, a very blessed feature.
However, hands down their coolest feature, which correct me if I am wrong, is unique to their app, is IM Push notifications. The lack of background apps on the iPhone is of course one of, if not the biggest disadvantages over other phones. Whether or not this issue will be “fixed” in iPhone 3.0 is up for debate. With IM+, you can have your IM running in the background for all intents and purposes. You can configure how long you want it to stay connected after you close the app, and during that time, you appear online to your buddies. If they send you an IM , it is sent to your email, from which you can choose to reply to the IM (converted back to IM automatically, how cool is that?) or open the app and reply. Very very cool feature, which separates it from its competition.
The ultimate IM app? Not so fast. Yea, it is a highly useful and extremely innovative app, but it is not without its bugs. Facebook chat worked for the first few days and I have not been able to connect ever since. The app says something about Facebook now requiring your birthday in order to connect and how you should press the “Support button” to input your birthday. When you press “Support”, it brings you to their FAQ, so yea, not feeling it. In addition, I have sent in numerous bug reports on this issue, and gotten one response back, so I think they need to knock their service up a notch.
Bottom line is, this app has huge potential and I cannot wait for the next version. Shape Services were really nice and professional, and unlike too many app developers that send me their apps to review, knew how to write their emails in proper English. By the way, if you are a developer or anything else for that matter, and English is not your mother tongue, have someone else write your emails for you, it makes a pretty bad impression, when people get an email that makes no sense. In fact, I rarely respond to such emails.
Back to IM+, they are clearly a company that is not satisfied with the minimum, but rather try to push the limits with the technology they put into their software. I for one enjoyed working with them and hope soon to review more products of theirs, and specifically the IM+Blackberry version. By the way, if I was not clear until now, the answer is yes, it is worth buying it, $10 is a little steap but I will go out on a limb and say it is even worth $10.
Update: Just got a tweet from my boyz over at Fring that they also have an “Always on” feature in their new release. Looks like Fring is back in the game! Thanks guys!