Thursday, July 25, 2013

Alternative Instant Messaging clients for Android

So +Google has seriously screwed their instant messaging client. The one new feature that was going to be amazing in Hangouts, notification/read syncing between devices works so poorly it looses messages. When it did work, it worked inconsistently. I know that this only affects a small set of users, but I'm one of them. I longed for the days where my messages were simply sent to all my logged in devices. On the desktop I tried using the web client, but it didn't compare to using a multi-protocol client like Pidgin. So I was forced to try out alternative third party clients on Android similar to what I use on the desktop. One thing to note ahead of time, if you want Hangouts for video chat, you're stuck with having a broken Google Talk implementation as none of these clients support the video feature.


 This client has been around for a long time and I knew it without having to research. It's available for almost every platform and has a trusted name. I found the interface to be a bit dated, but functional. It supports cloud message history syncing via their own services. Skype is also supported which is nice as Microsoft has been talking about dumping MSNM for some time now. This app costs $5. However, if you want OTR, that's another $5. I find that a bit steep for something that should be based on GPL code. I'm actually going to investigate that. You can try IM+ for free with adds and some features missing.


I didn't get far though. Even though it's free, or because it is, you have to sign up with them first. They ask for a lot of details and apparently kill your account if it smells like you didn't enter your full and proper details. From what I have seen though they have the cleanest and nicest interface.


This client also worked well but I couldn't get past the interface. The talk bubble interface got old very quickly. The full featured Pro version
 costs $10, which considering it doesn't include OTR like encryption was a bit steep. I didn't find the price justified over the $5 price of IM+. They do have a free version available as well.

So in the end I stuck with IM+ and paid for their pro version. It  seems to be the best by far in terms of features, usability and value. Yes, some of the clients are free, but require you to sign over your IM privacy to some third party. This app, at the time of purchase cost $5 and you can leave the company out of your IM or choose to benefit from their history syncing.

The one annoying thing I ran into with all the clients has nothing to do with the actual clients but that some of the other IM protocols, unlike Jabber, do not support multiple device sign-in. Wish they did as logging in/out all the time is annoying. Still it's a small price to pay for an actual working IM client that doesn't loose your messages.

Lastly, I know there are complete alternatives to these like Whatsapp, but this is not what I was after and have no interest in it. Hopefully you will find this mini review of value as I know I'm not the only one that is having issues with Hangouts.

 Update: Since posting this I got some other recommendations which missed my radar as they are not multi-protocol.


An open source Jabber client which will interface happily with the old Google Talk gateway. Looks clean and full featured and OTR is included. If you're just looking for a Google Talk replacement, this looks like the best I've seen so far, and it's free.

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