A couple of functions I enjoy on my Apple iPhone is interacting with my friends on social networks and via instant messaging. I have been using several different applications for these interactions and with the inability of the iPhone to multi-task using 3rd party applications this is not a great experience. Over the past week, I have been using the new Pinger Phone application that brings in my Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace social network friends and Yahoo!, AIM, Windows Live, and Google Talk IM contacts for a full and complete solution in a single package. There is also a server back end so that text messages can be used to notify you of new IM replies when Pinger Phone is not running. Check out some screenshots of the application in my image gallery.
|Image Gallery:Pinger Phone lets you view and interact via social networks and IM as you can see in my image gallery.|
Pinger Phone for the iPhone and iPod Touch is available now in the App Store (iTunes link) for FREE. You will see some very small ads on the Friend News page (see my screenshot in my gallery), but they are small and entirely acceptable to get such a powerful application for free, IMHO. I have actually replaced the Phone application on my bottom toolbar with the Pinger Phone application since it gives you the Phone functionality you need and so much more.
In the Friend News view you will see the status updates for all your friends in the accounts you setup for Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. It looks like you can view something like 200 of the latest updates, including call history, in Friend News view. Tapping on one of your friends brings up a history page for that person so you can see what they posted recently. You can also reduce the priority for that person if you don't want to see their updates prominently display on the front Friend News page. The type of update they made (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace) appears over on the bottom right. Above this is the Pinger icon. Tapping this icon brings you to the Pinger options where you can email, call, text, or IM that person with the four main icons or interact with them on the social networks by tapping the words around these four icons. Tapping the "more" text brings you options for viewing history, adding to favorites, and more. There is a refresh button up in the top right to update the view in Friend News too.
Unfortunately, you cannot yet post your own status updates in Pinger Phone, but hopefully that feature is added in the future.
Tapping on the Contacts icon will show you all the contacts you have in your iPhone contact list. Only now the data you entered for them will appear as bubbles with mobile, text, IM, and email so you can just tap one of these and interact quickly with that person. On the left you will also be able to view that person's online status if you have all the data entered for IM. A nice feature with IM in Pinger Phone is that you can instant message with their mobile phone using your iPhone data connection without using up text messages. This is important for me since I only have the 200 text message plan.
Favorites, the center icon in the bottom toolbar, is just like Contacts, but is a slimmed down list of those who you want quicker access to. In the Contacts view you can just start typing a name on the keyboard and your contacts will be smart filtered too for quick access.
The IM functionality is quite good with Pinger Phone and tapping this icon takes you to your IM status page that shows any conversations underway and the status of online friends and family. Again, the Pinger icon appears to the right of each contact so you can always interact with them that way. If you want to carry out and IM conversation then you simply tap the contact and watch as your iPhone switches into landscape mode. Only landscape mode is supported in IM because you get a larger QWERTY keyboard for faster and more accurate text entry. There are some additional smileys provided for fun too. Back on the IM home screen you can also manage your own status by tapping the icon on the top with Available, busy, Offline appearing as defaults or by entering your own text and then tapping the Set icon in the upper right.
Since the iPhone does not have multi-task support for 3rd party applications, Pinger Phone has servers to keep you logged in for up to 12 hours during instant messaging sessions. So if someone see you are online and tries to communicate with you via IM while you are using a different application a text message will pop-up with their text and the option to click the hyperlink and get back into Pinger Phone to interact. While this isn't as good as true multi-tasking and background notifications (come on Apple) it is a nice workaround until Apple gives developers that capability. Just make sure you have enough text messages to support this if you want to stay in online status all the time. You can also use the settings to turn off notify via text message.
Lastly, Pinger Phone has an icon for a phone keypad. This way you can call someone who is not in your contacts list and you can replace the iPhone Phone application with Pinger Phone. I actually now have it as my main left icon on the bottom toolbar of the home screen.
If you are like me and interact with people on social networks and via IM, then Pinger Phone is a MUST HAVE application that I am sure you will enjoy. I love the Pinger menu functionality and the ease with which you can interact with your contacts in a number of ways. You can download and install it now for free.
While I do use my iPhone from time to time, even better news is that development is taking place to get Pinger Phone on other platforms and I can't wait to see S60 and Windows Mobile versions.