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First Look: Agile Messenger with push notifications


Agile Messenger was recently updated to support iPhone OS 3.0's push notifications. The obvious comparison will be to BeejiveIM, since they both do the same thing: provide a multi-client chat app offering push notifications on your iPhone. We'll have a hands-on with Beejive later, but this is how Agile Messenger (iTunes link) works. Oh, and we're giving away five promo codes so you can try it yourself, just check the end of this post.

The first screen in Agile Messenger is a series of switches for each protocol supported. These switches make it easy to see what you're connecting to when you tap the Connect button. There's support for ICQ, MSN, AIM, Yahoo, Jabber and Google. You can only log in to one account per service, however, so if you have 2 Google accounts, you're going to log in to one at a time. I'm told they are working to change this.

Once you are connected, Agile sets your status to "Available." If you close out of the app the defaults will set your status to "Away," although I soon changed it to keep me available even if I close out the app. In addition to your status, Agile adds the "Mobile with AgileMessenger" message, which I could do without. You can change this behavior in the app's preferences but you can only toggle it off. If you want to change your status, you have to change each account separately, instead of one global change. That's a bummer. There's a setting to auto-connect in the preferences, if you'd rather skip a step.

Agile's menus use rounded rectangles everywhere, and pop up like the old VH-1 series, Pop-Up Video. It's a nice visual touch, and if you want to back out of a menu just tap anywhere else on the screen but in the menu -- slightly faster than a dedicated Back button. By using the pop-up menus you can drill down into anything, but mostly contact management and preferences. Once in preferences, the buttons become standard iPhone UI, which is good, because there are bunches of switches. Pictures of the preferences in the gallery.

Read on for more on picture messaging, chatting and push notifications.

Gallery: Agile Messenger for iPhone | 31 Photos

Messaging is a simple affair, as it should be. If you're in the app, simply double-tap a contact to initiate chat. You have portrait and landscape keyboards available, and with Agile you're able to send pictures and audio. Well, you can sort of send pictures and audio. Agile provides temporary storage on their servers for your pics and audio, and you IM a link to your friend so they can check it out. Note that video and "push to talk" features are available on other mobile phones (Agile creates versions for certain Windows Mobile, Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones) but not the iPhone. Agile is working on video messaging and sharing, I'm told, plus they are going to add sharing features to some popular social networking sites.
UPDATE -- Two-way voice messaging, or push-to-talk actually is supported on the iPhone version. As clarified by Agile:
"the current iPhone version does support 'push to talk', between any devices running Agile Messenger (just as our Symbian and Windows Mobile versions), it only sends the link to our media server to conventional IM clients. If the recipient has a device running Agile Messenger, and it is set to auto-play media messages, the voice message will stream to the device via our media server, and allow for 2-way voice messaging or push to talk."

The gallery has some shots of the push notifications. They work fine, and quite fast. As per the usual, you can control notifications by allowing alerts, badges and sounds. Deep in Gateway Settings there's a nifty service to forward messages to your email. It's no push, but maybe handy if you need email logs or don't use other notifications. Like BeejiveIM, you'll get a notification when a service logs you out.

Chat logs are kept for each person you message. I really like the way Agile handles this, getting the previous chats out of your way when you close them, but giving you a button to open the history when you go back to chat with that person. And since chats are stored in a scrolling tab bar, it's easy to just keep chats open but still out of your way. You can clear the history in the preferences, but I'm not sure if the app gets choked up at a certain point if you let this run away. You can turn off history altogether if you like.

Contact management is similarly straightforward. Tap the menu to add a contact or group. Once again, in the preferences, you can choose to view offline users, disable groups, etc. Tapping the blue button on a contact brings up a menu with options to chat, get contact info, move to group or rename/delete the contact.

I tweaked Agile's text rendering on the contact list too, and now it is bigger and easier to read (the gallery shows you the default text). The defaults or fine, but the amount of customization you can do with text is impressive -- and useful. If you find some apps hard to read, you'll be happy.

Overall Agile Messenger (iTunes link) is a good deal at $9.99 if you need a multi-client chat app on your iPhone. The differences between BeejiveIM and Agile Messenger are largely cosmetic, but those little differences add up. Agile is elegant, friendly and fast whereas BeejiveIM is just functional. Dare I say it, Agile feels more "Mac like" and BeejiveIM is little more " button-down PC." While BeejiveIM has a few tricks I like (setting all status indicators at once), Agile is certainly "mobile IM for the rest of us" if you're using multiple chat clients on your desktop (or Adium).

Now, on to the giveaway! Just leave us a comment with your favorite chat service (AIM or Yahoo? Google Talk or MobileMe? ICQ or Jabber?) by 11:59PM ET on July 20. See full rules below, and keep in mind promo codes only work in the US.

  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older.
  • To enter leave a comment telling us your favorite chat protocol.
  • The comment must be left before Monday, July 20, 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Five winners will be selected in a random drawing.
  • Prize: Promo code for one copy of Agile Messenger with Push (US$9.99 value)
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.

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