Nimbuzz: Free Multi-Service Messaging/VoIP Client for the iPhone

I have to admit, I paid 15 bucks for Beejive Messenger for the iPhone and haven’t looked back since. That said, I realize that not everyone has the budget or inclination to spend that much money on a mobile messaging app, nor should you have to. Free clients are also available, and the newest addition to the list is Nimbuzz! That’s not me getting really excited, there’s an exclamation mark in the product name. Not that I’m unfazed by Nimbuzz! either. The app supports all major messaging (text and voice) clients, and VoIP protocols as well, including Skype, so that’s promising.

At first, I mistakenly inferred from the app description that it supports only Wi-Fi connections. Not so. For voice chat and VoIP functions, you must have a Wi-Fi connection, probably to comply with carrier-imposed limitations, but for text chat, 3G and EDGE are fine. Like Palringo, Nimbuzz! requires you to sign up for a master account, but the process is relatively painless. You can do it from within the application, and the only information required is your desired username, password, and a valid email address. Nimbuzz! uses the account to store your saved services, so you can sign in to the PC and web versions with a single login and access all your IM networks.

The interface is clean and fresh, with different icons for your contacts depending on which service they are from. You can add services from the “Communities” tab at the bottom of the screen, and also switch from your contacts list, to chats in progress, to your message inbox/sent and your settings. The “Messages” tab shows you your Nimbuzz! emails, which can be sent to and from Nimbuzz! contacts, and which stand in for offline messaging, as far as I can tell.

Touching a contact name brings up a screen from which you can call, initiate a chat with, or email that person depending upon what is supported by the service to which they belong. This screen also displays their email, nickname and status.

Chats and VoIP worked fine in Nimbuzz!, on par with Palringo and Fring in terms of speed and quality. Nimbuzz! is not a newcomer to the space, so I expected no less from them. Unfortunately, a deal-breaker for me is the lack of persistent connectivity. You are signed out of your services the moment you exit the app. It doesn’t even have the short delay Palringo offers, let alone Beejive’s 8-hour login duration. It is nice to see the polish and usability of Palringo with the VoIP features of Fring, but if you depend on IM for business and are away from a computer for much of the day, it can’t replace Beejive.

For casual users and as a VoIP/voice chat supplement to an always-on client, Nimbuzz! is a great choice. Overall, the interfaces are clean, responsive, and well-designed and the app in general has a slick, professional feel. Kudos to Nimbuzz! for not rushing out of the gates and sparing us another bug-riddled IM client for the iPhone. Try it yourself here for free.

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