Review: IM+ for iPhone

Taking a conversation online in the mobile age was at one time a chore. The services and hardware that we had were crude at best. But over the last 5-6 years, the cellphone, and now smartphones, have come quite a ways. What was once a wasteland is now a land saturated with multi-account chat apps. There are literally dozens of different chap apps on iOS alone, with Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, and very soon, Windows Phone 7 all having their own options as well.


So how do you weed through the junk? Continue on and I’ll show you how…
 
IM+ for iOS is but one of many. With that said, how does it stack up to other premium chat apps say, Beejive for iPhone? Said app has been one of my favorites since it’s inception several years ago on the BlackBerry platform, under the old name of “JiveTalk”. It’s quite a heavy weight itself.

Initial Setup

IM+ is a full featured, mult-account chat app that supports MSN, Yahoo!, Google Talk, AIM, MySpace, Jabber, ICQ, Facebook, Skype and Twitter. Clearly, most people will be covered, easily. Set up is quite easy. Simply go to the “more” tab on the far bottom right and then click “accounts” to get started. I have a slew of accounts ranging from AIM to Yahoo! AIM+ handled them all, effortlessly.

Appearance

Appearance-wise, IM+ is quite a looker too. It has big, account-identifying icons next to each user name that makes it easy to determine who is signed and from what account — particularly helpful if you’re talking to someone such as I who is logged into multiple accounts at once.

Another thing that makes IM+ different from some other premium multi-chat apps is the healthy amount of UI customization options. You’ve got your usual chat bubble settings that you can change between bubbles as well as simpler, colored backgrounds. Even more useful, however, are the wallpaper settings that allows you to change the chat window background. IM+ already provides a large assortment of included wallpapers to get you going: Abstract, Animals, City, Events, Food, Graffiti, Nature, Patterns, and Solid. On top of that, you can also use any picture in your camera roll as well as taking a new picture with the iPhone’s camera.

Voice

What really makes IM+ useful outside of your typical multi-chat app is the voice-support feature. Everything from Twitter to Facebook can be handled with the sound of your voice, and transcribed with IM+’s pretty spot on voice transcription algorithm. Granted, it’s not perfect. I had my fair share of laughs at the voice transcription’s expense. But it’s better than the transcription service in Google Voice. (If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing the failure that is Google Voice transcription, just know that it’s bad.)

Browser

Having a built in browser may not seem like a big feature. And truth be told, a large group of people probably won’t ever need a built-in browser. But if you are a heavy multimedia user and send/receive lots of media and links, staying within the same app is a nice feature. It just makes things easier and faster.

Chat

The biggest and most important feature for any iOS chat app — Push Notifications — is present. It amazes me that some premium apps are still released today without said feature. I would consider it priority #1 if an app developer wants to succeed in iOS 4.x and beyond. Moving on, you’ve got your usual ability to change alert sounds for incoming/outgoing, new sign-ons/sign-offs, and more.

Animated Emoticons add a nice little flair that is actually quite rare in multi-chat apps. It’s extra flash that doesn’t do anything exceptionally functional. But its fun nonetheless.

Conclusion

Amongst the crowded field of multi-chat apps, does IM+ have enough going for it to make it worth the $9.99 asking price? That depends in some small part to what you are looking for in a multi-chat app. If you’re looking purely at the UI as a deciding factor, I’d say go with Beejive. It’s the same price at $9.99, and frankly, I think it looks better. It’s cleaner, more streamlined, and just doesn’t as…cluttered.

If you’re basing your decision on account support, it’s pretty much a crapshoot. Every multi-chat app is going to support your more popular accounts. IM+ on the other hand tosses in Twitter support, which is still not quite as popular. And, when it is included, it’s not exactly very intuitive or useful. At least with IM+ you could do away with your standalone Twitter app and be just fine. On that note, IM+ has a slight upper hand when it comes to account support I think.

Wrapping up — It’s hard to recommend one chat app over another in regards to features since they’re all so similar. Though in this case, IM+’s added voice recognition and Twitter integration gives it a leading edge to other multi-chat apps. Though those with an eye for design and simplicity may find IM+ a bit crowded. Nevertheless, in the end it’s up to you, the end user. All I can do is merely show you. You have to decide.

Shape Services — IM+ for iOS

Gallery

Thank you to Shape Services for giving me a review copy of IM+