Although Messages has been available as beta software since February of 2012, it's now part of OS X Mountain Lion. This app replaces the old iChat app, providing a consolidated way to send messages not only to other Messages users, but also to friends with accounts on AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and Jabber. Let's take a quick look at Messages and how it works within Mountain Lion.
One great feature of Messages is that if you send your messages to an iOS device also running the app, your texts, pictures, and audio/video clips are sent as part of your mobile carrier data plan. This has had the effect of making it possible to send unlimited text messages without an SMS/text plan. I canceled my SMS/text plan with AT&T back in February when the beta became available, as the vast majority of my messages are sent to people who are on up-to-date iPhones. That saved me US$20 a month.
Your conversations are also synced between devices. Let's say I'm in a conversation with someone on my Mac, but then want to go for a walk. I can grab my iPhone, fire up Messages, and be right in the thick of the conversation immediately.
There's a video button at the top of the conversation in progress -- tapping that button launches a FaceTime session in the FaceTime app. That seems kind of awkward, having to open two applications to start a FaceTime session, but it works.
28 standard smileys are available with a click to adorn your messages, and as we've mentioned earlier here on TUAW, it's easy to use Messages to send files between Macs or devices. The image below visualizes sending a short movie from my Mac to my iPhone. The size limit for files or other attachments seems to be somewhere above 100 MB.
What's my favorite mix of Mountain Lion features so far? Using Dictation to write and send off quick, snappy replies to my wife, who uses Messages on her iPhone as a way to keep tabs on me and give me more things to do...
I'm fairly pleased with the way that Messages makes it simple for me to converse with iPhone and iPad users without needing to pick up my phone to send the message. How do you feel about iChat's replacement? Leave your comments below.