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Quick Look: Meebo, a free multi-client IM app for iPhone [iPhone App Reviews]

In theory, Meebo is a free, multiple-service messaging app for the iPhone that also features push notifications. The reality isn’t too far off the mark, though: Meebo is actually a surprisingly good instant messaging client, but the push notifications aren’t really up to par just yet.

Web App to iPhone App
I’ve never used Meebo.com before, but it’s apparently a web messenger app that recreates the entire IM interface within a browser tab (probably works quite well as a Chrome or Flock app on the desktop). All I can say is that the interface has been ported quite nicely over to the iPhone, and I find it hard to believe this is a free offering. The whole app sports a very clean look with mellow blue backgrounds and a dark blue top bar. Everything loads up and rotates (woot, landscape) quite quickly to boot.
One thing that Meebo does very well (and that Beejive coud improve upon) is the management of your various IM accounts. Most of my chatting time is spent on Gtalk, and I really hate the idiotic bots that try to add and message me on my MSN accounts, so I usually keep Gtalk on, and MSN off. Meebo lets you specify which accounts you’d like to connect to at startup, and this just makes so much sense that I can’t believe that Beejive hasn’t already implemented this.

Meebo supports the standard lot of major IM networks, including: AIM, MSN, Yahoo!, Gtalk, Facebook, and MySpace. The network also claims to support 100+ other networks, but I really only looked at Gtalk, Facebook, and MSN.

Starting up a conversation requires you to be in the first of the three main tabs in Meebo: Buddies. Contacts are organized by online or offline status, and tapping on one will start up a Chat (which can then be found in the second tab: Chats). The default text size is probably just a little too small, but I much prefer it to the gigantic chat text IM+. You can chat in portrait or landscape mode, switch chats with a swipe to the left or right (chat bubbles show how many chats are open), and you can show or hide the keyboard by simply tapping on the chat window. There’s even a dedicated emoticon keyboard for situations where typing “XD” three times in a row just isn’t enough.
Chats appear similar to iPhone SMS conversations, with your friend’s text on the left, and your replies on the right. A chat history button is conveniently located at the top of the window, and your older chats are organized by date and fully searchable.

Push Notifications
There’s really not much to say here aside from the fact that they didn’t really work for me. I can’t speak for all of the services, but I know that my Gtalk push notifications were intermittent and unreliable at best. Sometimes they’ll work, sometimes they don’t. I also don’t know how long the app stays logged on for, but I do know that I was apparently stayed logged on overnight, because I received a push notification this morning. I’ve looked around the app and within Settings, but there aren’t any Push settings to play with.

Meebo just came out yesterday, but as long as you don’t count on it for push notifications, it’s actually a surprisingly good IM client. I already like it more than IM+ and eBuddy, but I’ll definitely be sticking to Beejive and its more powerful feature set and customizable backgrounds.

You can find Meebo for free on the App Store.

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  • I saw this come out earlier today, and have given it a try. Unfortunately for me, I seem to be getting a lot of random app crashes, most usually when changing my online status (away, active, offline, etc). I rarely experience any app crashes on my iPhone, and it's actually very stable overall, maybe once a week at most. But the Meebo app has crashed out nearly a dozen times in the hour I've been playing with it. And yes, I've removed and reinstalled, rebooted, all of that normal stuff. Hopefully others have a better experience than I have. Meebo looks to be a good start, but until stability improves, I'm sticking with the much more powerful BeejiveIM. Great post Thomas! 🙂

    • Thanks Josh, and ditto – I got one or two crashes myself, but figured it was just my setup.

  • I have used Meebo.com for about 4 months now as my dedicated IM client. yesterday I downloaded the iPhone app and promptly deleted the IM+ app.

    Meebo not only houses all the services I need (more than IM+) but it also has a very fast app. The Push Notifications worked perfectly for me, not sure where your difficulty was.

    I do agree, the settings are still a bit weak. I believe you are never logged out until you tell it to log out.

    One interesting item, if you use Meebo.com, when you are logged in to the website it will disable the push notifications but leave you logged in on your phone, so you can then leave the website and conversations will continue on your phone.

    Best integration I have ever seen.

    • good observation with the web-app tie in for notifications, Chris, that is a really cool idea.

      As for the push notifications themselves: I routinely received mine 30-60 mins late, if at all. Maybe it's just the Meebo servers being run down by the influx of new users…