Review: IM+ Makes It Nearly Impossible to Stay Out of Touch on iPad

IM+ by Shape Services has been optimized for the iPad and hit the App Store in universal format just a few days ago. At $9.99, it’s not cheap but it offers a way to stay in touch using 10 different chat and social networking services all in a single app.

IM+ supports the following services: Twitter, Skype Chat, Facebook (chat only), Google Talk, Yahoo, MSN/Live Messenger, AIM/iChat, ICQ, MySpace and Jabber.

As an instant messaging client, IM+ is quite capable and we had no problems using it with a variety of accounts. If you only use AIM, IM+ probably has far more features than you need and the official – and free – AIM for iPad app is probably sufficient for you. If you use Twitter, Facebook chat, and have multiple instant messaging accounts, IM+ will serve you well.

IM+ allows you to manage your contacts through adding and deleting buddies and groups (Facebook friends cannot be edited within IM+). Preset status messages are available and you can also create your own. If you want to be more than “Away” from a specific service or all of them, the Accounts settings will let you switch accounts off or delete them entirely.

IM+ also uses Apple’s push notification service to push messages to you even when the app is closed and the iPad is in sleep mode. We have encountered an error message after not opening IM+ for several hours telling us that our push notification session had expired and that we must open the app again to start a new session. Looking through the app’s Settings, we found that the push notification session can be extended to 7 days though the default is set to 12 hours.

You can enter text in landscape or portrait orientation using the iPad’s virtual keyboard (external keyboards are supported as well) and can make use of standard emoticons included in the IM+ app or the Emoji native to the iPhone OS, though IM+ does not activate Emoji for system-wide use in other apps.

In landscape mode, the pane on the left side can be toggled between your contacts and Inbox. The Inbox is where unread messages can be quickly seen and replied to.

There’s an in-app browser so you won’t need to leave the app to open links sent to you or if you want to browse while waiting for a response from someone. The browser is pretty simple and doesn’t offer bookmarking or other features, though this doesn’t disappoint us since it serves its primary purpose of offering you a quick way to browse as you chat.

IM+ also offers a speech recognition feature where the app will convert spoken words into messages. This feature costs $.99 per month as an in-app purchase. The recording of your spoken message is sent to IM+’s servers for conversion and the converted text is inserted to the outgoing text field. We found that this feature worked relatively well at understanding our speech though punctuation is another story entirely – converted dictations appear as a single sentence without punctuation no matter how long the recording is and saying punctuation out loud (as you would do in Dragon Dictation, for example) doesn’t work. As such, this is really just a feature for short exchanges if you find it easier to speak instead of type.

Using IM+ to stay on top of your Twitter stream, including replies and direct messages, works well, particularly with the in-app browser to view links within tweets. Facebook users may be disappointed to find that IM+ works with the site’s chat function only and can’t be used to view or make wall posts.

Like we said, IM+ is not cheap at $9.99 but it offers a boat load of functionality for those who want an all-in-one app to handle instant messaging plus Twitter and chat via Facebook and Skype and more. Considering this, IM+ turns out to be a bargain.