One of the biggest advantages of smartphones is connectivity on the go. Although you get that with almost any phone (that’s the whole purpose of a mobile phone, anyway), these devices allow internet access without restricting mobility, and that makes the whole idea all the more practical and useful. In today’s world, Google Apps have replaced plenty of enterprise suites for a lot of organizations, and even outside that, many users prefer using Google Chat due to its deep integration with Gmail and lightweight desktop client. Then, Facebook being the most popular social network, its chat service, too, is one of the most convenient methods of staying connected on the go. All the major smartphone platforms – iOS, Android, Windows Phone et al – have a plethora of multi-protocol chat clients that allow connection to various instant messaging services. The problem, however, is that not all solutions are equally effective; some may be resource intensive, others may lack (push) notifications, while still others may have an ugly interface. Furthermore, for iPhone and iPad, even though we have Facebook Messenger, it’s not that efficient, and on the Google chat front, neither is there any official client, nor are the third-party solutions that impressive. Perhaps that’s the reasoning behind the Cydia app, QuickIM. Currently supporting Facebook Chat and Google Talk, this app for jailbroken iPhone, iPod touch and iPad makes it super easy to stay connected with your buddies on these platforms, employing an easy interface, push notifications, and quick reply & compose features.
Developed by UnlimApps, QuickIM is available for free in the BigBoss repo of Cydia. Since it’s a proper app and not merely a tweak, an icon to the Springboard of your jailbroken iDevice will be added. The app itself is currently in beta and more of a work-in-progress, although whatever is offered as of now works without hiccups (setting aside a few minor annoyances here and there). Being a Cydia app, QuickIM is also considerably lighter than the likes of BeejiveIM, IM+, Verbs IM, or even the official Facebook Messenger.
When you launch QuickIM, a three-tabbed interface greets you, divided into Buddy List, Conversations and Accounts. Since it’s the first launch, all the three tabs will be empty, so you should head over to the Accounts window and configure your first IM service. Tapping the plus sign at the top will let you choose the service (Facebook or Google Talk), after which you’ll need to enter your credentials and give a name to the account for easy identification. The developers promise support for more chat protocols in future updates of the app.
Once a chat service has been added, it will show up under the Accounts panel. Notice the toggle next to any account’s name? None of your configurations will be active by default, and you will have to manually switch them on to let the app establish connection. It was also here that I encountered my first bug – QuickIM does not seem to agree with Google Apps accounts, and every attempt to set one up resulted in Mobile Substrate crashing, sending my iPhone into Safe Mode. The developers may want to look into that.
Once an account has been connected, the buddy list will get populated with contacts under three distinct divisions: Available, Away and Offline. QuickIM does not offer any settings menu or configuration panel whatsoever.
To initiate a chat, simply tap the contact’s name to get the compose window. Message delivery was instantaneous, and I have no complaints regarding the core functionality of the app. You may notice from the screenshot above, that Facebook contacts are differentiated in the Buddy List from Gmail ones by a tiny Facebook logo over the contact’s picture. Beyond that, I found no way to determine which contact belonged to what service.
All your active chats are listed under Conversations to make it easier picking up any discussion from where it was left off.
One might wonder at this point, despite all this being great, what makes QuickIM special? Why should one use it? To answer that, let’s understand how the quick reply feature works. Traditionally, when using an IM app, you’ll receive a message and the app will notify you (most likely in the form of a banner alert if you’re using iOS 5), tapping which will take you to the respective app. You’ll reply to the message, quit the app and go back to whatever you were doing. This can either be done by hitting the Home button to come back to Springboard and re-launching the previous app, or using the App Switcher (or any multitasking tweak) to go back. QuickIM, essentially, saves that trouble by making the jump back to the old app automatically.
Consider this: you were playing a game when QuickIM notified you of a new Google Talk message. You tap the banner, and the conversation pops up right in front of you (no re-sync required, like in Facebook Messenger). Key in your reply, but instead of hitting the Send button, tap return (bottom right corner). Your message will get sent, and instead of staying within QuickIM, you’ll immediately jump back to whatever game you came from. Should you want to continue chatting, you can use the Send button instead of return, and you will remain within the chat client.
In my opinion, you can get the most out of QuickIM if you use it in tandem with an activator gesture, since the app allows you to immediately and quickly send a chat message to any configurable service. However, even if you don’t bother with that, the app’s usefulness stays in tact, thanks to it’s quick reply feature and resource-friendly operation. The future versions aim to make it much better, as the developer promises adding support for more services, sending files, opening links from within chat – pretty much everything that popular IM apps do nowadays. At the same time, I’d recommend they look into the few bugs that are there, too, and especially address the Google Apps accounts issue.
As stated earlier, QuickIM is available free in BigBoss repository, and is compatible with iOS 5. Testing was carried out on iPhone 4S running jailbroken iOS 5.1.1.