Meebo: (Almost) Perfect IM for iPhone
Until this week, instant messaging on the iPhone has been dicey, which was an improvement over “non-existant” when iPhone launched, and “poor” slightly thereafter. The absence of an Apple-developed iChat application created this state of affairs, but third-party developers have attempted to remedy it with their own alternatives, which have ranged from not-so-great to acceptable, but not excellent.
That changed when Meebo, Inc. released the latest iteration of its multi-service (AIM, Yahoo, Google, MSN, ICQ, Jabber) chat client for the iPhone, also called Meebo. As with all other web-based iPhone applications, it can’t compare with the phantom “ideal” Apple-based chat program because part of the screen is virtually always stolen by a URL bar and various Safari icons, but otherwise, Meebo has done an excellent job of simulating an iChat-style interface, and taking into consideration certain limitations (read: one window) that differentiate the iPhone from a PC- or Mac-based chat client. Its main screen lets you see not only your Buddy List, but also previews of the most recent text that’s been typed by your buddies. You also have control over status messages in a large, easy-to-read pull-down menu format.
Individual chat windows are also pretty smart. Messages are timestamped, accompanied by contacts’ real names rather than screen names under certain circumstances*, and a little icon lets you know how much activity’s taking place on your Buddy List when you’re not looking at it. In these images, the red 1 lets you know that some event (say, a message) is waiting to be viewed on the list. Meebo even loads buddies’ icons to display on the iPhone, and generally—not always—does a good job even when messages are being sent to both the iPhone and another computer or device at the same time. We have seen a bug where an old Meebo chat session stays open after a crash, leading to an apparent mis-routing of messages, but we suspect it’ll be fixed. Groups, and closing unwanted ones, could also use some work.
Something that’s simultaneously cool and not cool is Meebo’s PC and Mac web interface for the chat service. It’s cool because Meebo effectively gets around some of the iPhone’s third-party application-specific limitations by having you create an account on its PC/Mac web site, customize certain aspects of your Buddy List (such as status messages and the appearence of screen names) from there, and then transparently access the customizations from the iPhone. That’s really smart. But it’s uncool for a couple of reasons: first, the workaround’s nice, but you shouldn’t have to switch machines or set up a special account to make IM-specific changes. Second, we’ve had mixed results getting some of these details, like contacts’ real names, to appear on the iPhone without entering them manually on the Meebo page. Jesse in Canada saw his Buddy List’s real names transfer properly; I didn’t, and wound up with e-mail addresses and nicknames unless I changed them one-by-one on the Meebo site. Obviously, if this was an Apple program, the Buddy List could reference all of my Contacts and match screen names to real ones; Meebo has done almost as well as it could given Safari’s limitations.
As of now, Meebo is my personal iPhone chat client, supplanting BeeJive’s JiveTalk, and it’ll be interesting to see how Meebo evolves the application over time. I still want a completely iPhone-optimized, Apple-developed AIM client that’s accessible from the main menu and more customizable from the iPhone itself, but if Meebo keeps this up, and Apple doesn’t accommodate other partners’ chat services, this web app will own the multi (MSN, ICQ, Jabber, Yahoo, Google) client chat space on iPhone even if an Apple program is released.
If you have a comment, news tip, advertising inquiry, or coverage request, a question about iPods or accessories, or if you sell or market products, read iLounge's Comments + Questions policies before posting, and fully identify yourself if you do. We will delete comments containing advertising, astroturfing, trolling, personal attacks, offensive language, or other objectionable content, then ban and/or publicly identify violators. Wondering why we're talking about something other than iPods? Check the Archives: Backstage has been here and kicking it since 2004.
- Federal bill aims to take regulatory power for phone encryption out of state hands
- Job post shows Apple emphasizing new complications, faces for Apple Watch
- New comments hint at forthcoming streaming TV service from Apple
- Apple Music available on Sonos starting today
- Screen protector installation now available at Apple Stores
- Russia mulling tax increase on App Store purchases, other Apple services
- Lawyers threaten to sue Apple over ‘Error 53’ codes disabling iPhones
- Apple releases iOS 9.3 beta 3, tvOS 9.2 beta 3, watchOS 2.2 beta 3 to developers
- Indie game ‘The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth’ rejected by Apple over violence toward children
- Apple likely to receive approval to open retail stores in India
- Gumdrop Cases DropTech Case for iPad Pro
- Edifier MP700 Rave Portable Bluetooth Speaker
- Just Mobile HoverDock for Apple Watch + HoverDock for iPhone
- VRS Design Dandy Layered Case for iPad Pro
- Just Mobile TENC for iPad Pro
- Native Union DOCK Lightning
- Native Union DOCK for Apple Watch
- Hitcase Pro+ Action Pack and Snap for iPhone 6/6s
- Urban Armor Gear Trooper for iPhone 6/6s
- NEBO CaseBrite for iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus
- Inside the betas: What’s new in iOS 9.3 and tvOS 9.2 (Updated)
- Life with HomeKit: Our experiences with Apple’s home automation system
- Under the Radar: 10 ‘hidden’ details about the new Apple TV
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.0
- Under the Radar: A closer look at smaller iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus changes
- A First Look at iOS 9’s Transit in Apple Maps (Updated for watchOS 2)
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iTunes 12.2
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 8.4 + Apple Music
- CE Week 2015: IK Multimedia, Monowear’s Apple Watch bands + More
- Live From CE Week 2015: Brand New iPad, iPhone + Mac Accessories!