Hola folks! I’m just back from my refreshing vacation in a small town on the Mediterranean coast near wonderful Barcelona! During this trip I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to really touch a number of apps, games and even an iPhone related gadget! So with this review I’m starting a cycle of Spanish themed articles on the stuff I’ve had the chance to play around on my trip. So, torro!
My first victim will be the rather well-known IM client, IM+, by SHAPE Services. I’ve had the unique opportunity to try out their latest build (3.4) which is currently under review by Apple and features nothing less than voice recognition! Yep, you heard me, voice recognition. Truth be told, it is for a small addiional montly fee, but hey, there’s no such thing as a free lunch! But we’ll get more into that later. We’ll start off easy for now.
First thing anyone would notice when launching IM+ for the first time is the bold phrase “all in one instant messenger”. And the amazing thing is that is the truth. IM+ supports everything, from plain old ICQ and AOL to Skype and Twitter. And it has Push – ahh, a sociopath’s dream. If you love to centralise all of your communications in one app, then IM+ is definitely the app for you.
A bit about the media IM+ supports and then I’ll get into describing the special stuff. Frankly, I didn’t have an opportunity to try each and every media, but I did try the most popular ones. First, the everfamous ICQ, the grandmom of all IMs (the woman is always the head of the family here in Spain). I’ve really had no problems with it. The message delivery is consistent and Push works reliably. My only quarrel with it was that for others, ICQ showed me as logged off as soon I closed the app (Which is most of the time). But as soon as my mates figured out I would still get notifications, I was all set. And anyway, I set myself as invisible most of the time anyway. Another thing missing would be some ICQ specific profile configuration (profile details, visibility lists, accept or deny messages not from contacts, etc.). Truth be told, some of them exist, but only as a general setting for all media.
Next, I tried MSN messenger. Not much to say here really, everything I said about ICQ basically applies here as well. Now onto more exotic ones. IM+ has Facebook!!! But unfortunately only Facebook chat is supported. But it’s still a start! Skype seems to work ok as well, the sound quality is consistent, so you can save on those long distance calls home if you find a free WiFi hotspot.
And now for the gold! IM+ supports Twitter. Yes, I was finally able to get rid of all those Twitter specific apps that used to clutter up my iPhone. More than that, it not only supports Push for direct messages and mentions, but for the general timeline updates as well! In this respect, it beat even any Twitter-only apps I know of. Using IM+ you can also reply, retweet or stat a tweet as a favourite! It even has a built in browser so you don’t have to exit the app as soon as you want to read a link in more detail. On the downside, there is no automatic link shortening, posting pictures, audio or video using the partner sites. But for a casual twitterer like me, it wasn’t a big deal. A more serious flaw were the few crashes I experienced when opening the friend timeline with had 100+ unread tweets, but this may be due to the app’s pre-release status.
Speaking of the general stuff, Push works great. You can customize whether you want badge, sound, or on-screen notifications (in any possible combination), as well as custom settings per account. You can stay logged in for up to 3 days, which isn’t a record, but is a reasonable amount of time (and is on par with most other IM apps).
And now onto the really fun stuff, Voice Recognition! Have you ever dreampt that you were running from an enraged bull only to tweet about it? Well, now you can! And even stay alive in the process (probably). It’s as simple as pressing the microphone button on the message screen and dictating the message. Mind you, it only notes about 30 seconds worth per tap, and the actual processing is done on the IM+ server side, so the speed really depends on your connection (I really would not recommend trying it on EDGE). But the result is surpsingly good. With a reaonable amount of background noise (and in my case, a horrible accent), it returned about 80% accuracy. Since IM+ is dependent upon the iDevice microphone, don’t expect it to work miracles. I should also note that voice recognition is an additional in-app purchase, but reasonably priced at 0,99$ per month. I really think that it’s a really good attempt at giving us speech-to-text on the iPhone and is definitely the future of text input on the handheld devices. So, Torro! And don’t forget that bull behind you!
The interface of IM+ is really simple and straightforward. Everything is distributed in 5 tabs: contacts with Twitter sections on top (configurable), inbox (all conversations), favourites (contact shortcuts), status (available, offline, etc.) and more. In “More” you have options, accounts and browser. The distributions are logical and intuitive and the interface itself is theme configurable. With a user-friendly layout and themes to match your tastes, it’s a great and easy way to keep in touch while on the road.
The overall feel of the app is really smooth and polished. You can choose a background for the message screens, ranging from pure colours to pebbles under water or a sunset. There are a lot of smily images which are fun and automatically replace codes in all messages, as well as vice-versa. I liked that you can choose how the contacts are grouped, which makes managing them very easy. The only things I felt missing were Linked In support and a more thorough support of Facebook.
All in all, IM+ is a real gem. Since installation, I have removed all other networking and messaging apps (except for Facebook), and haven’t regretted it. It really helps keeping all of your messaging in one place and does an excellent job of it. Therefore I really have no choice but to Kiss It. So bye bye from Spain and keep in touch with all of those dear to you. And no, no conspiracy theories today.
Note: While IM+ version 3.4 (our review build) is not out on the App Store yet, you’ll get the free upgrade with all the new features once it is approved by Apple.
|Title:||IM+ (v3.4)||Developer:||SHAPE Services|
|Price:||$9.99||App Size:||5.6 MB|