Daily iPhone App: IM+ with Beep

IM+ is one of the top-rated Instant messaging clients in the iOS app store. It has universal device support, and a list of features that'll suit any messaging fan. Shape Services, the company behind IM +, is constantly improving its iOS app. The latest update landed today and includes Beep, a new IM+-specific messaging service.

Beep will let you send instant messages to other friends and family who are running IM +. You can compare it to RIM's BlackBerry Messenger service, which lets Blackberry users message each other. The IM+ version is better than BBM because it has more features and is available on Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. I was able to evaluate the latest version of the IM+ app and check out Beep on both an iPhone 4S and a Galaxy Nexus.

The Beep service exists side-by-side with your usual messaging services like AIM and Google Talk. While you're chatting on AIM, it's easy to switch to Beep and use IM+ to send your buddy a quick note. Beep is easy to set up within IM+, all you need is a phone number. Once you confirm your number, you're ready to start adding contacts to your Beep network. IM+ has millions of users, so you probably don't have to look to hard to find friends for your Beep contact list.

The fun begins when you've added a few friends and start messaging. The interface makes it seem like you're using an IM service to communicate, but you're not. There's no login or any connection to a third-party server. All messages are sent through IM+, so you don't have to worry about racking up text messaging fees.

Messages are delivered promptly, and the app notifies you when a new message is received. It supports push notifications, so you do don't have to leave the app running to receive these SMS-like messages. Each back and forth is saved in a threaded conversation which is available in your history. If you want to share a conversation, you can find it in your history and send the details via email.

Besides messaging, the new Beep feature for iOS lets you send a photo, a video, or a voice note to a Beep contact. The app records the audio or video file, uploads it to a server and sends a link to the recipient who can download the file. You can also share your location with your Beep friends.

I tested these location, video and audio options and found they all worked well, with the exception of the video message. The iPhone 4S recorded the video clip and uploaded it without a hitch. Within a minute, I received a download link on my Android device. No problem, except the iPhone recorded the clip as a .MOV and the Android device had no idea what to do with it.

I originally thought Beep was a gimmick, but these additional messaging options make Beep much more than a novelty. After using it for a few days, I realized how nice it is to have a rock solid IM client and a rich multimedia, multi-platform messaging tool all in one app. It may not become my replacement for SMS, but it will be an app I use regularly for sending a video or audio message to someone.

The biggest hindrance to using Beep is finding friends who use IM+. For me, it's easier to fire off an SMS than to identify IM+ users, add them to Beep and make sure they are online when I want to chat. Shape Services has to make it easier to find friends who use IM+ and encourage them to use the app before the service can become a usable SMS replacement.

Besides Beep, the new version of IM+also includes a Rovio Angry Birds theme that you can download and install. It has a lovely wallpaper, lots of sounds and all your favorite Angry Birds characters from the game. Beep will be available in both IM+ free and paid versions for iOS, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Phone starting today. You can grab the free version of IM+ from the iOS app store. The paid version costs $1.99 and, among other things, gets rid of those pesky ads.