I am writing this article after having spent a considerable amount of my time trying to figure out how I could stay in touch with my friends who own BlackBerry phones and are so addicted to BBM that they’ll have to go to rehab to get rid of their berries (pun intended).
Apple will release iMessage with iOS5 and the folks at Google are working at making their own messenger. But the need of the hour is a multi-platform messenger.
There are a few applications that can do the above mentioned job. I’ll write about the ones I have used
Google Talk (Android/BlackBerry/Palm Pre/Nokia N900-Maemo)
The popular desktop IM client is available on a few smartphone platforms as mentioned above. However it is very basic and it does not support any of the advanced sharing features that other messaging platforms have. It also needs the user to be logged on to communicate (i.e. no push messages).
Google Talk does not support voice and video calls on the mobile platforms, except for Android 2.3.4.
There exist applications like Nimbuzz and Fring which allows Google Talk (among other communication applications) to be accessed on a variety of devices.
Yes, it does drain a lot of battery.
[Group Messaging: NO/ Push Messages: NO / Media Sharing: NO /Account Type: Google Account/Cost: Free]
KiK Messenger (iOS/Android/) (Update:Even Windows Phone 7 is now supported)
This application is phenomenal ; it was so widely used at one point of time that BlackBerry removed it from the App World. People did complain about lower battery life but then KiK did what BBM did, but much better. You could talk to everyone using an Android or iPhone. So the folks at RIM decided that this app should be removed as it was eating into the reason a person would buy a BlackBerry.
I continue to use this app to stay in touch with family living abroad. Group messaging just got implemented in it. I just wish it wasn’t taken off the BlackBerry App World. Oh and an update from the developers themselves (http://twitter.com/#!/Kik/status/85726030660239360) Kik is now available on the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 platform.
[Group Messaging: YES/ Push Messages: YES / Media Sharing: YES /Account Type: Kik Account/Cost: Free]
Now this is the only completely free app that gives you a complete messenger experience. Now there is no signing in on this app – it’s always switched on and the push service is pretty good. There is group chat and media sharing which is fluid on most devices.
[Group Messaging: YES/ Push Messages: YES / Media Sharing: YES /Account Type: PingChat! Account/Cost: Free]
This is probably the most popular messaging application out there. It has all the advanced features like group messaging and push messages. The only bad part is that it’s free to use for a year and then you have to pay $1.99 for every year after that. Now I wouldn’t mind paying that but how many people would pay? That is the major problem with this application. But I love the way it ties itself to the phone number and it works seamlessly when you switch from one device to another given you are using the same SIM card.
[Group Messaging: YES/ Push Messages: YES / Media Sharing: YES /Account Type: none, identifies through phone number/Cost: Free for the first year ,after that $1.99 per year]
ebuddy XMS (iOS/Android/coming soon on BlackBerry)
This is a relatively new app and it is very promising since the people developing it have in the past developed the eBuddy messenger for java based phones. The interface is slick and it works pretty well. The focus of this app is to message maybe that’s the reason it lacks the advanced media sharing bit the other apps have.
[Group Messaging: NO/ Push Messages: YES / Media Sharing: Limited to picture sharing /Account Type: eBuddy PIN/Cost: Free]
Like the name suggests LiveProfile is more than just a messenger. It integrates with Twitter and Facebook adding an entire social dimension to the messenger application. It has one of the best user interfaces that I have seen on apps of this kind. It seems to drain lesser battery than the others.
[Group Messaging: NO/ Push Messages: YES / Media Sharing: Limited to Videos and Photos /Account Type: Live Profile PIN/Cost: Free]
However I cannot ignore the BlackBerry/CrackBerry Platform because it has BBM and if I were to compare BBM the way I compared the others, this would technically be what I would write
[Group Messaging: YES/ Push Messages: YES / Media Sharing: YES /Account Type: BB PIN/Cost: Free]
So buy a BlackBerry? NO! BlackBerry Messenger does not work without the BlackBerry Internet Services – which itself costs 400 rupees per month (and you actually thought you are saving up on SMS costs). This is really expensive compared to normal data plans from Network operators which are all under 100 rupees per month.
An update:There also exists Beluga owned by Facebook and Kakao Talk which is avaialable for the Android & iPhone platform but they aren’t available for BlackBerry-and I haven’t used them much as none of my friends are on these networks.