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.
MobileChat ($3; listed as Chat on the home screen) is one of only two IM applications for the iPhone and iPod touch not offered as a free download, instead hoping that its broad support for AIM, Windows Live, ICQ, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and Jabber will be enough to entice users to pay. Like several other IM apps, MobileChat uses a bottom-tabbed interface for navigation, letting users move between buddies, chats, accounts, and status screens. In our testing, MobileChat had serious problems handling Yahoo!, Windows Live, and Google Talk accounts; we had limited success connecting to Google Talk, while our Yahoo! and Windows Live accounts were never able to completely connect, instead sticking on “Establishing Link,” as shown in a status reading below the account details in the account view. It also exhibited strange behavior upon closing and re-opening the app; although we had it set to log off upon exit (changed in a menu in the Settings application, along with options for away and toggles for vibrate and audio notifications), it would often still be connected upon relaunch, although this would not be reflected on the accounts screen, but instead on the status screen. Further complicating matters is the fact that users can’t individually log in and out of accounts — it’s an all-or-nothing proposition in MobileChat. All online buddies from all currently-connected services appear at once in the buddy list view.
We found yet another bug in the app’s chats view: several times when attempting to enter a chat, we were met with a blank screen, save for the chat entry area and photo button at the bottom. Although we were able to send and receive messages, we could only tell this by listening to audible cues — nothing ever appeared on the screen. When it’s working, the chat window, like AIM, uses a colored bar with a space for the user’s avatar on one side, along with the user name and time stamp. MobileChat does not automatically grab avatars; we were unable to add them manually, either. Several times a single message from a buddy would appear on the screen multiple (5-6) times when it was only sent once, and the app’s camera button (for sending photos) incorrectly crops and distorts photos, which are sent as URLs to be viewed online instead of actual inline images.
While it appears to have an impressive feature list on paper, MobileChat is at this point a highly buggy application, hindered by problems with both connecting to IM servers and within the chat process itself. With several more stable and more usable options available for free, MobileChat is nowhere near being worth the price, and, in its current incarnation, falls well short of our recommendation. iLounge Rating: D.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPhones, iPod touches