Beejive has been on my review list for quite awhile now. Actually ever since they released the first version that was push notification compatible. I couldn’t help myself when I saw a twitter post saying it was released, so I instantly bought the app. I was so excited to finally see a chat client with push notifications. I didn’t even wait for the early adopters to do the grunt work to found out how it handled the new push notifications system, which is totally out of left field for me, especially for an app that costs more than $.99. I figured what the heck, I’ll be an early adopter for once, and I have to say I’m haven’t been disappointed. Beejive is currently the my most expensive app I own on my iPhone at $9.99.
Adding an account is a snap with Beejive. It supports most of the popular IM clients such as AIM/MobileMe, Yahoo, Google Talk, Windows Live, My Space, Facebook, ICQ, and Jabber. Pretty straight forward as one would expect in a top notch IM app like this. Once your account is created you are taken to the Accounts tab where you have the choice to bring your account online with the typical status options that you’ve come to expect with most IM clients (Available, Away, Busy, Invisible), as well as being able to create custom status messages which everyone loves. This is all standard stuff, but probably the most valuable feature in the accounts area, which isn’t included in a lot of the mobile chat apps I’ve seen, is the ability to set a privacy level. This allows you to hide from certain buddies/groups who you don’t want to know your online when your on your iPhone. This is a great feature to have especially if you use the same IM account for say…work. Currently the privacy settings are as follows; Allow anyone, Block everyone, Allow specific people, Block specific people, and Allow buddy list only. I find this to be a very powerful feature, because most of the time I when I’m on my phone I only want people from my buddy list to know I’m available.
Beejive does a wonderful job of importing all your groups/buddies, so initiating a chat is easy as tapping a friend in your buddy list, where you are immediately taken to a blank chat window with the keyboard active. Once you start typing in portrait or landscape, a chat bubble appears with your text as your typing. The chat bubble has a smiley face in the lower left which spawns an emoticon window when tapped. The emoticons are a great feature, but Beejive’s implementation has them a tad too small in this window, which makes it somewhat hard to distinguish between the different emotions without getting real close to your phone. This is all pretty much chat 101 stuff really, but the real fun comes in when you swipe the top of the chat window. Doing this minimizes your chat bubble, and produces a drop down menu which gives you the option to take a picture (or choose existing picture from your photo library), audio recording, email a transcript of the chat, or delete the chat conversation. The picture, and audio options work very well from my testing, and I had no hiccups sending them over the 3G network. Other features that are supported in the chat window are copy/paste, predictive typing, and switching between chat conversations.
The “Chats” tab on the bottom of the screen is the command center for all your chat conversations, and you can easily switch between multiple chat from there. You can also switch between chat conversations from the drop down menu of the chat window. Also, a fun feature you can enable from the prefs menu is the ability to switch chat conversations by just shaking your phone, but it doesn’t quite work the way I would expect it to all the time. For one, it just cycles through your your active chats one after another, so if you had say 5 chats open you may have to shake it 5 times in order to get to the chat conversation you wanted, which makes it very inefficient. It can also be too sensitive, so a tiny movement even on medium sensitivity may switch you to another chat, or invoke Apple’s ‘shake to undo’ feature which is annoying. It’s a nice way to incorporate the accelerometer, but I would avoid it.
The Prefs menu contains the meat of the custom tweaks. There are a few options to customize the cosmetics of the app which mainly revolve around the chat here. Here you can set chat bubble colors, status icons, color scheme, and wallpaper. You set the wallpaper by choosing a design provided by Beejive, taking a picture with your iPhone’s camera, or choosing an existing photo from your photo library. The UI customization is nice, and allows you enough to make your Beejive app unique. A nice feature to add in the future would be the ability to attach different wallpaper images to different users from your buddy list. The “Favorites” tab and the bottom of the screen is a great feature. It allows you to add different buddies across all your accounts to this tab. A mashup of all your buddies who you talk to the most, all in one location. You can also select custom sounds to apply to your audio alerts, but their aren’t very many, so hopefully they’ll add more, or even better allow you to use sounds from your iTunes library.
I haven’t had any connections issues at all. You might get the spinning progress wheel when coming back to a chat after you exited the app for like a second, but that’s over 3G. It’s really very fast. You also now have the option of staying logged in for 7 days before being disconnected, which should really appeal to hardcore crowd. As far as push notifications go, I’m not a big fan, because I think Apple could have saved a lot of time by just allowing you to decide whether or not you want to run a specific app in the background. I think their push notification implementation saves battery life, but they really should just let the user decide that. I’ll stop before I start ranting. From my testing Beejive does a good job of handling notifications as far as I can tell. There seems to be some delays at times with the text/sound alerts, but I truly believe this is mainly Apple’s issue, and not Beejive’s. It actually works quite well, but not as good as if it were to be running as a true background process
I would highly recommend Beejive as your “go to” mobile chat client on the iPhone, especially if your a power user. It’s extensive support for all the popular chat services, privacy settings, and slick chat features really make it an easy transition from your desktop client. If you don’t use mobile chat a lot then still get it anyways, because it’s best in class in my opinion, and I don’t see anyone else knocking it off the podium.