Meebo for the iPhone Takes Mobile Instant Messaging to a Different Level

If you are the proud owner of an iPhone, there’s a better than decent chance that you message other people. Whether it’s text messaging (SMS) or picture/video messaging (MMS) or even instant messaging, you use your iPhone to reach out and touch someone (hey…wasn’t that AT&T’s slogan for a while there…?). When Apple introduced push notifications to their iPhone OS, I was ecstatic. I paid $9.99 for BeejiveIM for the iPhone. It was a really nice app. But there was something that bugged me…something that seemed so simple to overcome, but I couldn’t find a way around it. When I was at my computer chattin’ away, my phone was just lightin’ up with message notifications. It was ANNOYING. Ultimately, I kind of just stopped using Beejive because I hated having to remember to shut it off to avoid the notifications while at my computer and then remember to turn it back on when I left the computer.

Enter Meebo for the iPhone.

Before I go on, I just want to reference the hype out there about people doing paid reviews for iPhone applications (and in many cases not being up front about it) – this is not the case here. I found Meebo for the iPhone a few weeks ago and have just grown to like it so much, I thought others might benefit from knowing about my experiences (good and bad) with it. That’s it.

So, let me talk about Meebo for a bit. Meebo is a browser-based, multi-protocol instant messaging “client”. In other words, you can use it to sign into AIM, Yahoo, MSN, GTalk, Facebook chat, Myspace Chat, (and many, MANY more) without having to install anything on your computer. I used Meebo on occasion for the last couple of years, but was not really dedicated to using it because I didn’t like having to keep a browser tab open just for Meebo. I preferred having something I could minimize to my system tray (like Digsby or Pidgin) that allowed me to just get messages when they came in.

Well, AFTER finding out about Meebo for the iPhone, I discovered Meebo Notifier. The Notifier stays logged in to Meebo (with or without the browser open) and lets you know when you get a message. You double click the notifier icon to bring up in the browser of your choice (you can use your default browser or choose a specific browser. I use Google Chrome App Mode while my default browser is Firefox). As far as I can tell, Meebo Notifier is only available for Windows at this point.

Did I mention that Meebo for iPhone is FREE? That’s right – FREE. And it has push notifications and when you close the app, it will keep you logged in (for now) for about 24 hours (according to one of their blog posts, they’re working on the option to extend that). I have had 2 occasions in the last 4 weeks or so when I got a notification from Meebo that I’d been logged out due to inactivity when it hadn’t been more than an hour or so…not sure how or why that happened, but at least I was notified. I just opened the app and was logged back in.

Now here’s where it made my life a little more sane.

I downloaded Meebo Notifier to my computer. I downloaded Meebo on my iPhone. Like other iPhone chat clients with push, I can chat on my iPhone and get notified of new messages when the app is closed. But where Meebo really stands above the rest is when I open up my laptop, Meebo Notifier logs in, and pretty much instantly, my message notifications start coming through my computer INSTEAD OF (not in addition to) my iPhone. While you have Meebo active on your computer, they disable the push notifications. They even give you a nifty little message within Meebo that says “Push notifications are disabled while you are active”. And then, when I’m tired of being on my laptop. I just close it down, and without any effort on my part, push notifications start on my phone again. SWEET! If you have it on a desktop computer that you’re leaving turned on, 15 minutes of idle time will automatically re-engage the push notifications to your phone (or you can close the notifier or even shut down Windows…which will make it instantaneous).

AND, as an added bonus…all my chats are synchronized between my phone and my computer. All the conversations I was having on my phone show up when I open up my computer. When I close my computer and open Meebo on my phone…my chats are preserved. If I end up with too many preserved chats that are getting in my way, signing completely out of Meebo on both the phone and the computer will close all of the open chat sessions.

Now…the “gripes”.

1) Meta-contacts…it seems to me after my experience with other instant messaging clients, that meta-contacts should be standard. If you don’t know…meta-contacts are when you take multiple screen names on your buddy list and tie them all to one name to reduce the number of names showing on your buddy list. Because I’m logged in to at least 6 different screen names at once, I might have the same person on my buddy list in 6 different protocols and their name shows on my list 6 times. That’s a little obnoxious. Workable, but obnoxious.

2) Tabbed conversations. I’ve been using tabbed convesations for YEARS now. Going into the Meebo browser experience keeps all your chats in one window, but all your IM conversations are all over the place. Makes me feel cluttered.

3) The idle time setting for re-activation of push notifications to the phone. Fifteen minutes is ok, but if I have notifier running on my desktop and I suddenly leave my computer, it’s going to take 15 minutes for push notifications to my phone to re-engage. I would like the option to modify the idle interval at which Meebo will begin to push to my phone again. This is especially important if you’re taking advantage of Google Voice and GVMax for SMS messaging. (That’s a whole other post, but let’s just say I’m using SMS without using my AT&T SMS plan by leveraging Google Voice, GVMax and Meebo). If I walk away from my computer, that could mean that I won’t be aware of any SMS messages that come to me in that 15 minute period. I can always open Meebo on my phone and I’ll see them…I just won’t get the push notifications until then.

4) No Skype support (yet). Skype is not really all that important to me, but there are a lot of people out there looking for Skype integration. So far it doesn’t really look like it’s on the horizon just yet.

5) No ability NOT to save my password on the Meebo Notifier. That just bugs me. Every chat client I’ve ever used has had a little check box for “Save Password” except Meebo. It’s not a deal breaker for me, but I would prefer to have the option to make it so that if Meebo Notifier is launched on my computer, it’ll require my password.

Gripes aside – Meebo is, by far, the most mobile-friendly chat client I’ve used. You can chat with your friends on any computer with a browser without installing any local software. The way it shuts off push to the phone when you’re active on the computer is just awesome. And the seamless transition back to push when you close it on your computer just really makes this THE chat app.

P.S. – in case there IS anyone out there who wants to pay me for this post…just let me know…I’ll tell you where to send the check! LOL

5 responses to “Meebo for the iPhone Takes Mobile Instant Messaging to a Different Level”

  1. […] I posted a review for Meebo for the iPhone because of how seamless it made the transition back and forth between desktop instant messaging to […]

  2. Dustin says:

    Thanks, Warren! Unless you’re a spammer…but if you’re not a spammer…THANKS! (I only said that because I’ve seen spam comments that sound a lot like that…but…my spam marker didn’t mark it and the site you included doesn’t look spammy…so if you’re genuine, I really appreciate you stopping by and leaving me a note!)

  3. Thanks! That was very informative, I just saved your website.

  4. Dustin says:

    Thanks, Rock Chick!

    I haven’t looked at Foursquare yet…I saw it and kind of just bypassed it, but maybe I should give it a look-see.

    There are other really good mobile chat apps for the iPhone, and arguably some of them have some better features (Beejive, for example, does have metacontacts and you can currently stay “logged in” with the app closed for 7 days). But for the seamless transition from mobile chatting to desktop chatting, I would choose Meebo over Beejive. (Not to mention the price difference!)

  5. Cool review!!! I hadn’t heard of meebo before your post here, but you’ve been spot on with the other iPhone app suggestions you’ve passed along, so I will give it a try. I don’t do much online chatting, but hey, maybe I’ll start 😉 I’ve been playing with Foursquare lately. I like to know what kinds of places people go to LOL Nosy!!!!

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