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.
As one of five multi-service IM applications for the iPhone and iPod touch, Palringo
(Free) is one of three that are offered as free downloads, and is not alone in asking the user to sign up for an account before use. Palringo offers support for most major messaging services, including Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo!, AIM, Gadu-Gadu, ICQ, Jabber, and Google Talk. Unlike many competitors, Palringo eschews the bottom-tabbed interface for one that consolidates most functionality on one main screen, letting users swipe between this view and their various individual chats.
The main window presents users with a top bar holding buttons for editing their account, Palringo buddies, or groups, along with buttons for selecting buddy, account, or group views. The main part of this screen is used to display these three lists; accounts are listed alongside a button to change the online or offline status, while tapping on a buddy will open a new chat window for that contact. The bottom of the screen has a Palringo icon button which can be used instead of the swipe method for navigating between the main view and individual chats, while a button in the corner lets the user make global changes to their status.
On the individual chat page, a bar at the top lists both the name and username of the person the user is chatting with, along with a button for closing the chat, while buttons at the bottom allow the user to choose whether to send a text, voice, or picture message. The application allows both iPhone users and those using the second-generation iPod touch to record short audio snippets, which are sent as links to the other party; the resulting recording can be played in the recipient’s browser—a feature that’s pretty useful for people trying to send messages on the go. Likewise, the app allows the user to send either a new or saved picture, which are also sent as links which can then be viewed online.
Refreshingly, URLs sent by themselves can be tapped to open the link in Palringo’s built-in browser, which makes it the only chat application able to correctly handle incoming links, even if they have to be sent as a separate message. Pictures are also sent correctly; the only problem we experienced was the occasional double-message when sending a voice message, where one link would lead to our recorded message and the second to a truncated recording. Interestingly, while the online player for audio recordings sent to all non-Palringo contacts is Flash-based and can’t be used on the iPhone or iPod touch, voice messages sent from one Palringo user to another can be played directly within the app, giving users an incentive to use Palringo’s service instead. A fourth button next to those for picture, audio, and text messages lets the user add the other person to the contact list if they aren’t already, and a menu in the Settings app lets users toggle an impressive number of features on and off.
Looking past the requirement to sign up for a Palringo account, the company’s IM app is surprisingly better than AOL’s own client on the AIM service, and is arguably the best multi-service IM app available for the iPhone and iPod touch. With the ability to send audio recordings — to paraphrase one iLounge editor, how many iPhone IM apps can one use safely while driving? — and correct link handling with a built-in browser, Palringo is currently both the most useful and most versatile IM app. A more unified, simpler-to-use interface would make it even better, but as it stands, it’s worthy of our high recommendation. iLounge Rating: A-.
Company and Price
Company: Palringo Limited
Compatible: iPhones, iPod touches