This review originally appeared within iLounge’s iOS Gems series within the compilation article, iPhone Gems: The Best Instant Messaging Apps. Additional details may be found in the original article.
BeejiveIM ($16) is perhaps at once the most polished, complete IM app for the iPhone and iPod touch, and the most overpriced. It offers compatibility with AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, MSN/Windows Live, MySpace, and Yahoo! messaging, and like the majority of its competition, uses a bottom-tabbed interface to let a user navigate between a buddy list, favorites, active chats, accounts, and more options. The accounts page offers edit and add buttons at the top, along with a list of current accounts, each with its own status bar, letting the user set online/offline status independently for each service.
As with other apps, all buddies from all currently online services are listed together in the buddy list; however, BeejiveIM appropriately displays each contact’s avatar to the side, a feature we’ve only seen elsewhere in AOL’s official AIM app. Buttons at the top let users search for and add buddies, while tapping on a buddy opens a new chat, and tapping the blue button to the right of the buddy listing brings users to that buddy’s info screen, with buttons for starting a chat, adding to favorites, and blocking or deleting the buddy.
The chat screen itself is slick, mimicking the iPhone’s SMS app and Apple’s Mac OS X iChat with messages displayed in talk bubbles coming from different sides of the screen and in different colors.
Ingeniously, Beejive has users tap in the chat window to bring up the keyboard and tap again to dismiss it, making the most of available screen real estate. New messages appear in a translucent bubble overtop the chat window, which slides into a normal, opaque bubble once sent. Unfortunately, links are not clickable when sent to BeejiveIM, limiting its usefulness in online-centric discussions. Likewise, there is no way to send either pictures or audio snippets from the app.
The more tab gives users access to their buddies listed by account or by group, a useful help system, and the app’s about screen. A menu in the Settings app gives the user access to a robust set of preferences, including toggles for using groups and hiding offline buddies in the buddy list, sorting options, message previews in the chats screen, turning notifications and alerts on and off, auto away messages, turning push email alerts on and off, setting the session timeout limit, and more.
One of the most highly-touted features of BeejiveIM is the ability to send message notifications to the user via push email (MobileMe or Exchange), filling in the gap left by Apple’s slow rollout of its third-party app push notification service and its insistence that third-party apps cannot run in the background. In our testing, this feature worked as advertised, letting the user see the latest message and providing a button to open BeejiveIM to respond. This can be used in conjunction with the session timeout setting to allow users to respond to incoming messages up to 24 hours after they last opened the app; this kind of flexibility is not to be overlooked, especially for power users.
Impressive features aside, we can’t help but have issues with the app’s $16 price. To put BeejiveIM’s price into perspective, it isn’t just the most expensive app in this review: it’s amongst the most expensive apps we’ve yet tested for the iPhone and iPod touch, and typically, IM applications for computers are free. While we believe BeejiveIM could be worth the money for users who have a real need for a constant, persistent IM connection, right now—before Apple offers that feature for free—we also believe those users are relatively few in number.