Developer: BeeJive, Inc.
Price: $15.99
Version Reviewed: 2.0.1

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★★
User Interface Rating: ★★★★★
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

Updated: 11/19/2009 for Version 3.1 by Jeff Scott

There have quite a few updates to Beejive since our review was published. The current version has gotten even better than the one reviewed. Here’s a quick rundown of the major updates since the review was originally published.

Push Notifications allow you to get messages while you are not actively using the application and without the need to burn through SMS messages. These notifications are configurable just as other push notifications are and add amazing value to the app.

Group Chat lets you chat in the app with multiple contacts at once. While initially figuring out how to create a group chat was less than obvious to me, once you figure out how to do so, it makes sense. To create a group chat you go to the chats tab, hit the plus sign in the upper right and add the people you want to chat with. Now, I feel stupid.

Meta Contacts allow you to combine multiple contacts into a single chat stream. So if your buddy contacts you on AIM and you reply on Yahoo! IM, no problem, they can appear in the same chat stream.

Facebook IM allows you to chat with your Facebook buddies just like the other chat services.

These days I barely know what it means to have a spoken conversation on the phone. Seriously. My friends, family, coworkers and clients all use some form of instant messaging. It enables me to multitask in conversation, something I just can’t do on a phone (even though switching between and merging calls on iPhone are fun, it’s still limited). It’s important to be able to do this if I’m juggling a hefty social life, client base, or participating in some serious office drama. And all without straining my vocal chords! Typically I manage all this from my desktop, but BeejiveIM puts it into the palm of my hand – now there’s no escape!

First up, here are the protocols BeejiveIM supports: AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, MSN/Windows Live, Myspace IM, and Yahoo! Messenger. As an OS X server administrator that sets up Jabber/iChat server for clients, I was particularly impressed with the Jabber integration in BeejiveIM. If you use just two of these messaging services, the convenience factor of BeejiveIM jumps up considerably.

Until Apple gets their iPhone push notification services running, BeejiveIM has come up with a really acceptable workaround for remaining logged into your AIM accounts when the app isn’t running: When the app closes, you can have BeejiveIM forward your incoming instant messages to a push email account. You’ll receive an email letting you know who is contacting you, and there will be a button you can touch to jump you right back into BeejiveIM from Mail. You can leave this forwarding active for up to 24 hours. Sweet!

I’d like to talk about the interface of the app now, which really is my favorite part about BeejiveIM. Everything aspect of the app can run in landscape mode – Yes!! Widescreen chatting!! The app has lots of beautiful transitions for doing things such as deleting a chat, or when you shake the phone to tab over to the next chat. If you touch the name of a buddy in the chat window, a sheet drops down that gives you the ability to record and send a voice note, upload or take a picture, delete the chat, or email the chat transcript. You can also scroll through your active chats on this screen. There’s a slew of UI preferences in the Settings app on iPhone, you can do things like change the colors of the chat bubbles, alter the IM sounds, set a chat background, change the name display order, etc. BeejiveIM really shines when it comes to customization and attention to detail, traits that I believe really add value to the app. Not only that, it’s just plain fun to tweak out your chat client, and the more options, the better!

BeejiveIM actually started out as a free web based chat client. In my opinion, it has always been the best, and this holds true through the app’s transition to running natively on the iPhone. If you want to get a taste of how cool BeejiveIM is, pull up Safari on iPhone and browse to http://iphone.beejive.com but remember there are tons of features on the native app that aren’t available in the web client.

I have very few criticisms of BeejiveIM. I’ve been using it exclusively for chatting on iPhone since MacWorld 09 and have noticed a few areas where there could stand to be some improvement. First, BeejiveIM seems to take up a hefty amount of resources on iPhone; if I get over 4 simultaneous chats running while listening to music, the audio playback will skip quite a bit. I often get signon on timeouts for my Gtalk account. Sometimes pressing the button in Mail to launch BeejiveIM, BeejiveIM will crash as it opens. These few quirks in the face of all that BeejiveIM offers make them totally excusable in my opinion. Plus, their support team is really friendly and responsive. The app is a bit on the pricey side at $15.99 – there are other free and less expensive IM clients for iPhone on the App Store, but none of them seem to match the polish and quality of BeejiveIM. I was a bit apprehensive at spending the money, but ultimately I realized it was well worth it after just a few moments of playtime. I suggest Beejive Inc. drop the price to a flat $15 so that the smallest denomination of iTunes gift card could buy the app, that might make it seem a little more accessible to potential buyers.

If you need hardcore IM on iPhone, BeejiveIM is simply the best out there.

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