[This is a TiPb AT WORK App vs. App Review! The TiPb iPhone Forums voted on their favorite Apps, we took the top two, and now they're going head-to-head. But wait -- there's more! One of the forum voters has already won a copy of the winning App... Congrats duhockey! Want another chance to win? Comment on this post and make sure you leave a valid email address in the comment form -- it won't be made public, but it will be used to contact you if you win! Check out the full contest details, then grab your iPhone and get ready to get things done -- the TiPb AT WORK IM Showdown starts now!]
Instant Messaging has become one of the most popular forms of online communication because it offers instant access, no SMS costs, and unmatched convenience. How Apple doesn't implement an iChat Mobile on the iPhone is simply beyond us, we at TiPb think an iChat Mobile would be a top contender for an App vs App.
With that said, 3rd party apps are beginning to fill the holes that Apple left open. Two of the more popular, argued about IM Clients available in the App Store are Palringo and BeejiveIM. Though at the core of each is an IM Client, they could not be more different. How do they perform? Which IM Client is better? Who will win the first edition of AppvsApp: AT WORK ?
Read on for the rest of the review!
Okay, the $15.99 price tag is hefty and borderline egregious but it doesn't come without cause. BeejiveIM is perhaps the easiest, most intuitive, and slickest IM Client on the iPhone. Everything makes sense, it supports a ton of different Instant Messaging programs and is very, very stable.
I had no problems logging into my AIM and Google Talk accounts at the same time and was off to chatting in a moment's notice. The buddy list supports buddy icons, groups and status. The basic layout of the application includes tabs for Buddy List, Favorites, Chats, Accounts, and More
It also provides a very neat feature where it can keep you logged in after you exit BeejiveIM (24 hour max period) and will send you a notification of IM through your E-Mail account. This works best if your E-mail account supports push since it serves as a pseudo-push notification feature. So if you reason that you're using their servers to remain connected, the $15.99 price doesn't look as bad.
To put it into perspective, BeejiveIM is essentially everything you want AIM to be but better.
Palringo is free. That's a huge selling point in itself. But make no mistake though, Palringo isn't some second-class IM Client; it is capable, almost as stable, and possibly even more full-featured.
The unique aspect of Palringo is that it strives to be more than just an ordinary IM client. Palringo serves as a full communication tool—you can send text IMs, voice IMs, or even picture messages—all in Palringo. It is limitless fun to send your buddies snapshots of your daily life and accompany them with voice notes.
However, with Palringo you have to sign up for a Palringo-specific account. Though this sounds easy enough, there have been reports of spam reaching your linked E-Mail account because of Palringo. Also, when I first tried to log in, the app just kept loading and loading and loading. Not until I re-installed Palringo could I finally get access.
Palringo also supports pretty much all the Instant Messaging programs available but its buddy list doesn't support groups and buddy icons. It also lacks a favorite tab and a chat specific tab.
I found that even though Palringo is free, it is absolutely a full-featured IM Client that doesn't cut any corners.
I really believe if Apple were to design an iChat Mobile, it would look strikingly similar to BeejiveIM. The buddy list is clear, the fonts are wonderful, and the whole experience is unbelievably smooth. Even the colors and sounds used are consistent with iChat and the iPhone in general—if you showed a Mac user BeejiveIM they would automatically think iChat—it's simply that well made.
When in a chat, the typing interface is unique and well thought out. Instead of offering a small linear box to type in, BeejiveIM instead chooses to offer a text bubble overlay—the overall conversation moves to the background and what you type comes to the forefront—this offers more seamless chatting. The conversation is still visible because of the transparent text bubble.
Though this method of inputting messages is smart, it isn't consistent with the iPhone and almost looks out of place in BeejiveIM. BeejiveIM uses a lot of blues and muted greys in their interface so using a black text bubble sticks out like an eyesore.
Though I absolutely love using the text bubble over any other text input interface and certainly appreciate the innovation, I just can't wholly agree with its design—a more streamline color would have been appreciated.
BeejiveIM also offers support for landscape mode so our fat-fingered friends won't feel left out. As an added bonus, you can even e-mail the current chat to your e-mail account for future reference. It also has a contact search button so your buddies won't get lost. One more tip, theres a dedicated SMS button that makes it easy as pie to send SMS through BeejiveIM (which should be cost free to you).
Palringo is well implemented and looks good but you can't deny the fact that Palringo just looks like a third party application. Though it does use a mixture of greys and blues, the base color of Palringo is a deeper black than the iPhone that doesn't stay consistent with the rest of the iPhone's apps.
Let it be known, when using Palringo, sending text IM's becomes bland and boring because of the alternatives offered. When you have voice and picture options, who needs text? It gets to become a minor annoyance when you want to send a text IM because every time you open a chat, it gives you three options: Text, Voice, and Picture. Select the option, than begin typing.
Sending voice messages and picture messages are a breeze, over Wi-Fi and 3G it is absolutely snappy and even on EDGE it can be considered quick. There is also a search bar option for contact search and you can swipe screens to move over to the next window. Palringo also offers support for hyperlinks, making it easier to surf the web and IM at the same time.
Though BeejiveIM is absolutely well-designed, there are still a few missing features and odd choices that make you question your money spent. Firstly, its chat-to-chat movement is less intuitive than AIM and Palringo. Instead of swiping the screen to move to the next window, you tap the top of the screen and select the buddy icon of the chat you want to jump to. Though this method is sometimes more effective than swiping multiple times to jump to a specific conversation, it is largely less intuitive. BeejiveIM also lacks hyperlink support which makes it much more troublesome to access web pages.
I had a few more complaints about BeejiveIM until I realized the features I thought were missing were actually included. BeejiveIM has different depths and layers to grow accustomed to, you won't learn them all overnight. It is probably one of the most well-made applications in the App Store and has features that make you go "Man, that's just smart".
As well made as Palringo is, it doesn't approach the streamline level of BeejiveIM. There are a lot of confusing features and a few hiccups in the user interface as well. The text input box is much too small, with only a few words visible at a time and the buddy list is just much too cluttered to be pretty. Also, it seems like Palringo is driving their own services down your neck—a lot more useful buttons could be implemented instead of Palringo-specific options.
There's also no way to keep your message history, so good luck looking up information on your old IMs. Also, if you misspell the last word in Palringo it doesn't automatically correct the error instead choosing to send the message as is. I also preferred the font of BeejiveIM over Palringo. The interface just didn't work as well as BeejiveiM's, it did the job but it never really raised the bar.
Obviously, the hefty price tag of BeejiveIM will deter a lot of folks from purchasing it. And I agree, $15.99 is a very steep price to pay for an IM client especially when there is one as good as Palringo available for free. But as the iPhone is currently without push notification, BeejiveIM's system replicates the same idea to great results. If you are a heavy IM user, BeejiveIM is obviously worth the price and the best way to go.
It can be argued that Palringo offers an arguably more well-rounded service than BeejiveIM. But when comparing IM to IM, BeejiveIM manages to run away with a victory.
BeejiveIM is simply one of the best applications available in the App Store: it is polished, it is well constructed and it is stable. It overcomes the lack of background apps and push notification on the iPhone by coming up with its own solution. It handles multiple accounts very well and is designed almost perfectly. The BeejiveIM team certainly needs to be commended for such great work. In the end, both IM Clients are great but BeejiveIM is simply in a class by itself.