Review: AIM for Windows Mobile

AOL launched a mobile version of it’s once king AOL Instant Messanger (AIM) the other day and initial findings are promising but they’ve got a ways to go. ReadWriteWeb thinks it’s a must have app for Windows Mobile devices and I tend to agree if they make some changes. However, hands down it beats what Google is offering for my mobile phone without downloading a third party application…a big fat goose egg. I understand they’re pushing their own mobile operating system but come on! Blackberry has one and Bill Gates isn’t even running the day to day operations at Microsoft anymore so let bygones be bygones. But I digress. I know it’s still in Beta but here are some thoughts.

  1. IT’S A HUGE BATTERY KILLER!!! I know the TREO 750 already has ‘poor’ battery life according to critics but this drains it faster than Britney Spears bounces in and out of rehab. I can normally get through a full day with moderate email/phone usage but when I’m running Mobile AIM my battery is ready for charging by 11AM – that’s roughly 3.5 hours of use for you bean counters. This has got to be fixed before launching the final version.
  2. IT’S A MEMORY HOG!!! I’m not sure if it’s just intense processing or if it’s an actual memory leak but I gained 12MB of memory after shutting down AIM. Gained means it allocated it back to usable memory when I shut it down…it was using 15% (give or take) of my processing power. On a mobile device that’s a HUGE amount of processing power!
  3. It doesn’t give external notifications (other than sound which is just obnoxious) when you have a new IM. If you choose to turn on sound it will play the standard new IM sound. However, if your phone is on vibrate it doesn’t do anything to alert you.
  4. The interface is visually pleasing and mostly functional, here are a few comments:
    • Good:
      • Navigating between various conversations and your buddy list is extremely easy, especially if you have a touch screen. I think without a touch screen many of the features I enjoy would be difficult
      • You can add/edit/delete groups and friends which is pretty slick for a mobile Beta release
      • You can easily toggle between available, busy and invisible (major plus considering Google Talk hasn’t even got that right in their desktop client yet)
      • Setting messages (away or status – however you use them) is a breeze
    • Bad:
      • There are some issues with how it ‘pages’ when you scroll through your buddy list – it’s a little clunky. This may be attributed to the fact that it’s using so much processing power and the system chokes a little when you try and scroll
      • When you’re in the conversation mode the ‘send’ button is on the wrong side – at least compared to the TREO 750. Text messaging on the TREO is displayed a lot like IM conversations and the send/close buttons are on different sides than AIM Mobile has them. This is big from a usability stand-point – I’ve already had several messages that didn’t get sent because I clicked the wrong button. Just takes getting used to I suppose…
      • There is an ‘alert me when’ option on the menu that I can’t seem to activate. Not sure how it would work given the fact that I don’t get notified of IMs unless I’m physically in the application
  5. There isn’t an automatic updater. Not a huge deal but definitely an inconvenience. Now I have to go to the Beta site and download the new version every time they release a fix. They have said an update notification is on it’s way in a future version though. In the mean time it would be nice if the site included dates/times of the most recent release so I could guesstimate whether I should install again. Maybe I’m just missing it because that seems like common sense.

Here are a couple things I’d like to see them add on top of general usability/performance:

  1. Add an option to my photo menu to set a particular image as my AIM icon
  2. Add an option to my photo menu to send images to AIM buddies if I’m logged in
  3. Allow me to add a link to my Windows Today screen that will take me to a new IM if there is one

My current client has blocked AIM/Google Talk so if you’re in the same boat this is definitely worth the download. Here’s a shot of the user interface from the AIM Mobile site.

(image courtesy of AIM Beta site)

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