Updated impressions: IM+ 4.5 for iPhone

I haven’t used IM+ ($9.99) in quite a few months, but I decided to give it another try recently, just to see how much had changed.

I’ve always thought of IM+ as a competent messenger application, but my impression was that it lacked the level of polish that separates good apps from great ones. In particular, IM+ used to feel like a port of the Windows Mobile version of the app, which simply wasn’t designed for iOS.

However, we’ve seen quite a few updates to IM+ over the past few months, and version 4.5 feels much more like an iOS app than previous versions. The contact list flows better, more portions of the app support custom wallpapers, and Fast App Switching makes chatting, even while multitasking, feel almost seamless.

IM+ even makes me feel a little guilty when I use it. There are so many extra little features that I simply don’t use that it can sometimes feel like the app is more Messenger than I can handle, so to speak. What other messaging apps do you know of feature speech recognition subscriptions and Twitter support?

However, there are still some issues with the app that keep me from becoming a convert. First of all, there’s the fact that every single incoming message will prompt a push notification. My friends and I like to spam each other with links of sheer stupidity, and this behaviour often turns IM+ into a push notification siren. Pushing only the first incoming message would solve this, but there is currently no such option within IM+.

Next up is the interface. While I do appreciate the visual improvements to the contact list, other areas of IM+ can look and feel very basic. Using IM+ can be like playing with Duplo (Lego for toddlers) when what you really want is Lego. They’re basically the same thing, but many elements in IM+ (fonts, icons, etc.) can feel over-sized and so cartoony that they stick out from the otherwise polished UI in version 4.5.

One area where this “Duplo” interface really strikes me is on the chat screen. There isn’t a huge difference between the amount of text displayed in IM+ and Beejive (my current favourite messaging client), but IM+ certainly does feel quite cluttered in comparison. That’s because elements like contact status, contact icons, emoticons, and even the “back” button all feel like they’ve ballooned in size. It’s not that I blindly prefer Beejive to IM+, but I do think that IM+ could use a big eraser and a much more subtle brush if the devs ever see fit to take another stab at the UI.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got to say on the subject for now. As a messaging app, IM+ works quite well (though the consistent Push on *every* message may annoy some) and it’s one of the most frequently updated apps I’ve covered over the past few years. However, for all its power, something about the interface in IM+ reminds me too much of Duplo for my liking (I’ve also discovered how much I resent Lego for ever releasing Duplo — but that’s for another, completely unrelated post).

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