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The second app in the roundup is IM+ from ShapeServices . Much like BeeJive , ... BlackBerry News forum

  1. #1
    MStrawder's Avatar
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    Jul 2008

    Multi-IM Client Roundup: IM+


    The second app in the roundup is IM+ from ShapeServices. Much like BeeJive, IM+ supports all the popular IM services: MSN, Yahoo!, Google Talk, AIM, Jabber, ICQ, Facebook, and MySpace, but it goes two steps further, supporting Skype Chat and Twitter. The latter being the plus (no pun intended) for me, because I'm a regular Twitter user.

    I want to reiterate here however that the Skype function in this application is for messaging only and is not a calling feature. ShapeServices offers a separately priced app for that. While I'm not a Skype user myself, I know it is a widely used service and the ability to use some of it's features through an IM client is something exclusive to IM+ on the BlackBerry platform as is the Twitter function. So from the start, this application has earned bonus points for having both Skype and Twitter integration built right in.

    The main screen is very typical, in that it displays both your connected services and online/offline friends and current dialogs. Using the 'Main Screen' settings, you can change how this is displayed with three different styles: List (avatars), Tree (avatars grouped by service), or Grid (no avatars). I personally favor the 'List' layout as it's more of a standard display. Scrolling down to any contact and selecting them will initiate a chat dialog, while selecting a connected service will allow you to change your status (i.e. online, aways, busy) Along with your connected services are two other features that are unique to this client. The first is the Translator+ which will translate your IM's into 9 different languages; English, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. A great feature if you're chatting with friends overseas. The second allows you to send SMS (text messages) to the US, UK, and other countries, starting at 5 cents a message. Use of this feature requires pre-purchase of SMS credits that are then loaded into the IM client itself.

    It is also from here that you'll see your Twitter information displayed. Through the settings menu, you can can choose to have your timeline, DM's, or replies display on the main screen. However, it doesn't display the actual Twitter timeline here. Rather clicking on the icon will take you to either of the three and it is displayed in the same manner as an IM chat (pictured below). I personally did not like this at all. I found the display to be cluttered and awkward when viewing my Twitter messages/timeline. Switching the display to 'simple' from 'bubbles' and changing the font size in the dialog options definitely cleaned up the display, bringing it more inline with other Twitter apps in terms of timeline display.

    While I was sincerely hoping to be able to dump my Twitter app for the one included in this client, I realized I just couldn't do it. Overall it still lacks advanced Twitter functionality such as a URL shortener and picture sender. Though it does have a feature to add emoticons to a message using the main menu. Personally I would trade the silly yellow faces for a URL shortener so I can cram more into my tweets.

    The chat display is pretty standard, with the 'bubbles' (pictured) and 'simple' displays. Again, I'm not a big fan of the bubbles display, but I have no doubt it is a selling point to someone. There's not a lot of customization to be had with the chat display and perhaps that's a plus for this app. While I'm a fan of making an app truly mine, bloating the application with features that a lot of users will never take advantage of isn't always the best idea. There's an old military adage about keeping it simple stupid, or the K.I.S.S. method and I believe there's something to be said for that. IM+ provides a clean and easy to use chat box; type your message and hit the enter key. That's it.

    There are a few advanced features in here however. The emoticons option is back, along with the ability to send a file, take a picture and send it, and even send a voice message. I particularly enjoyed the ease of switching between chats. Simply scrolling left or right switches between the main screen and any open dialogs, including your Twitter timeline/messages.

    ShapeServices offers another feature to make chatting quicker and easier, voice recognition/dictation. Rather then typing out lengthy IM's, you talk, it types. In my trials of it, the recognition was pretty accurate. I do tend to speak slowly and annunciate when using these types of programs however to avoid a screaming match when it can't decipher my southern accent. The service is subscription based and comes at an additional charge of $1.99. You do get a free 7-day trial to evaluate it however.

    For those times when battery life or signal strength is an issue, IM+ offers a feature called 'IM Push Mode' where the application itself closes, but you are kept online and receive your messages through push email. You're able to read and respond to your messages through email without the need for the actual IM+ application. Not a selling point for me because it's just going to clog my inbox during a long conversation. However the feature can be useful if you're in an area with spotty reception as it will keep you logged in, so you never miss a message.

    A few features from the developer I didn't mention are:

    • Incoming Skype call can be recored as a voice message to listen to it later.
    • Use multiple accounts of the same service simultaneously.
    • Send free SMS. In Yahoo! you may send SMS to the following US carriers: Cingular Media Net, Cingular MMode, Nextel, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.
    • All connections types are supported, including WiFi.
    • Communicate securely, connect to your corporate Jabber server over SSL.
    • View archived messages from your contacts. Save, Search, Filter, TimeStamp options.
    • Send message history by e-mail or save it to file.
    • Quick contact search. To find a contact fast, just type in the first letter of the name in the "find" field.
    • Get popup notifications about a new message at the top of the screen. Click on the envelope to read the messages.
    • Configurable personal online alerts and notifications (Vibrating, Sound and LED).
    • Background and Stay On-line Mode. Keep IM+ active when using other BlackBerry apps.

    My experience with this app overall was positive. It provides a simple to use interface, while adding a few nice features. It kept me in touch with all of my contacts as it supports all of the popular services, plus a few extra. The IM Push Mode in particular could be a great battery saver if that's a major concern. I would like to see a bit of a revamp of the Twitter display as well as the inclusion of a few advanced features as I mentioned above.

    Perhaps the biggest drawback to this app and quite frankly the one that would make me less likely to purchase it is the sticker price. The app is $39.95, but is a lifetime update license and allows it to be transferred to another device (except iPhone/iPod). Gotta say that's a pretty hefty tag for an IM app. Also, the extra $1.99 for the voice recognition might not seem like much, but quite frankly, when I'm paying nearly $40 for an app already, I would expect that feature to be included. For all those Skype users out there who want something more then just Skype chat, ShapeServices sells an app designed specifically for Skype calls on the BlackBerry platform, which is an additional $29.95.

    So while I was pretty happy with the app's performance and ease of use, it took a while for the initial 'sticker shock' to wear off. Once it did though, I found a fairly solid IM client that fit the criteria I was looking for: ease of use, standard IM services support, and battery friendly. The interface wasn't a problem, except for the Twitter portion and in all honesty I don't expect IM functionality from my Twitter client, so maybe I shouldn't expect Twitter functionality from my IM client. You can check out more about the app or download the 7-day free trial here.
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  2. #2
    srl7741's Avatar
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    May 2006
    Great review. The price seems steep? Ouch..... Why is this App so expensive?

  3. #3
    Delfim's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    I've had this program for years's migrated from phone to phone, too many to count ! Never had any hassle with the reg. code...always the same one working !
    I must say it' a great application. No misfires ŕnd it's always available for all IM - I love the fact that even when it's off any IM I receive I can optionally have it pushed to my email address.
    It's well worth the price ! It' a serious application !

  4. #4
    MStrawder's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    I didn't mention in the review, but they now offer a Lite version that includes all the IM services and is ad supported. I gave it a go around too and it functions in the same way. I didn't find the ads to be too obtrusive.

  5. #5
    iamjaeger's Avatar
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    Mar 2010
    Hi All, Could anyone confirm that it support "Google Apps for your Domain" on gTalk?

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