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Quick App Comparison: Three Leading iPhone IM apps

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I saw a Zits comic strip once with the line ‘I think therefore IM ‘. Good stuff.

There are three leading paid-for IM apps for the iPhone that have attracted a lot of attention in recent months “ and we thought a quick and easy comparison could be helpful to some folks. I own Beejive and Patrick has received copies of both Agile and IM+ for review, so we decided to compare each of the apps using a set of basic categories.

Hit the jump for shots and some quick-n-easy feature comparisons.

Each of these apps is capable in its own right. I know Agile and IM+ from my WinMo days, and I bought Beejive because of all the hype from reviewers and various tech sites. But let ‘s break it down a bit more.

Instant Messaging

The common messenger services among the three apps are:

  • AIM
  • MSN
  • Gtalk
  • ICQ
  • Jabber
  • Yahoo!

Beejive and IM+ also support MySpace and Facebook chats, although I don ‘t use either of those services.

Contacts and Chats

Beejive manages chats with a hidden tab interface. You can navigate contacts in the contacts panel (with dividers for diff services) or assign favorites to their own special tab. Once you ‘ve initiated a conversation, switching between chats involves tapping the top of the screen and then sliding your finger until you find the active chat you were looking for. It ‘s also very easy to read your own messages over again with the three-line entry text entry box.

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That ‘s Beejive, Agile Messenger, and IM+ in the three screencaps, left to right, above.

Agile Messenger has a pretty standard tabbed interface. What ‘s interesting is that the different messenger services are grouped into their own tabs instead of one master list.

IM+ probably features the most unique system of organization, although I ‘ll leave it to you to judge whether that ‘s a good or a bad thing. Contacts are kept in a contacts list with its own button and then incoming messages are actually in an ‘inbox ‘ tab, sorted by contact. I ‘m not too sure how different this would be if they renamed ‘inbox ‘ to chats.

Landscape?

Beejive and IM+ support landscape typing, but Agile currently only supports portrait (I ‘m sure they ‘ll eventually support this, though).

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Background support?

Well, by background support I mean: will I still receive messages in one form or another if I leave the app?

All three of these apps can actually stay connected for hours after you ‘ve left the app “ and all offer options for how long you ‘d like them to stay connected for.  The messages will just load when you launch the app and your device will vibrate like mad 🙂

All of the programs offer to e-mail you the messages you missed while you were logged out, though.

File Support

All three of these apps can send and receive pictures.

A few final thoughts

2 Thomas — Beejive (I keep saying Beehive) is an expensive program by App Store standards, but I really think it delivers on quality. Chats are very easy to start and manage with the minimalist UI. Menus for switching between chats, emailing entire text conversations, and sending voice comments will slide away when they’re not needed. I also like how you can nuke all the text you were typing and start fresh by just pressing an "x’ button in the corner of your chat bubble. My iPhone has no way of selecting text to erase, so this is a real time saver if you tend to catch yourself sticking you foot in your mouth during a convo (or if you just want to erase things). Overall, Beejive is fast, it works when I need it to, and I’m satisfied with my $16 purchase.

photo(3) Patrick — Agile Messenger features an elegant and effective UI throughout the app. I believe that mobile apps that are easy to use end up being the most used, and are ultimately more effective to use. There are also excellent pop-out menus in all areas that change according to where you are and offer relevant choices for that screen. I liked the ability to customize fonts and font sizes for various sections of the app.

photo(2) Patrick — IM+ allows you to send your location (if you have Location Services turned on) via same button as sending pic – tap it, and you have choices. Another cool option (via same button as mentioned above) is to send a voice note. The interface is not the best looking, and is not the easiest to navigate either – but the app has a powerful feature set.

Prices

BeejiveIM – Instant Messaging Anywhere — $15.99

IM+ v2.0 — $9.99

Agile Messenger “ $9.99

Hit us up in the comments if you ‘ve got any further questions!

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