We recently reviewed Flory for Windows Phone 7, at the time one of the few solutions to fill the chat shaped hole in WP7’s armoury. We liked it, but bemoaned the lack of features and the baffling amount of bugs in the release, and while some of those bugs have been fixed, we were very happy when Shape Services sent us a review copy of its massive chat client, IM+.
We don’t ask for much in an app like this; we just want to be able to log into our favourite chat services and to receive notifications without bugs or stability issues, and thankfully Shape Services have delivered on both counts, and a whole lot more besides.
Before we go any farther, I should point out that the app is quite expensive. Here in the UK it is £7.99, without a free trial. The developer is based in Germany, so they don’t have access to the Microsoft Ad network, so that is the reason that there isn’t an ad based free version, but I really think there should have been a time based free trial.
The app includes support for Facebook and MySpace chat, Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger, Skype, AOL, ICQ and Jabber. This is a really impressive list, but there is one standard that is conspicuous by it’s absesnce, and that is Windows Live Messenger.
Despite that odd omission, the app handles adding and managing all these accounts really well, and allows you to set your online status as well as add your own custom status. A nice touch, but you can’t set one status for one account, and a different status for another account. The only way to do this is to literally turn an account off temporarily.
The app allows you to add contacts to an account, another nice touch, although I had to try this a few times to get it to work. There is also a search function, handy if you have a lot of friends online, and the smiley support is also very welcome.
The app’s main screen shows two columns, one showing you all your contacts, and one with all your recent chats. Switching between the two is very intuitive, although scrolling up and down a long list of contacts can induce a little bit of lag.
The app really impressed me with it’s use of notifications, with a support for every way Windows Phone can notify you. So, the app includes a live tile, toast notifications and can run under the lock screen. You can set the app to tell you when you either get a new message or when contacts appear online, and for me it all worked really smoothly and as stable as you would hope for. I have heard that some people have problems getting push to work, although this does seem to be a problem with a lot of apps that use live tiles. The solution seems to be deleting and reinstalling the app, so hopefully not too much of an ordeal.
Aside from the slightly laggy scrolling, the other aspect where the app slows down is on the initial boot, as it can take a while to connect, even if you are only using one account. In all other areas, the app is fast moving and quick to update and send and receive messages.
I found the whole experience to be by far the best chat option on Windows Phone, and the fact that is is reliable and has a lot of options makes this a particularly good release, especially for a 1.0 version. This is a good sign that the app can only improve on its strong start.
The question for many people will be whether the app is worth the high asking price. The answer, if you are a regular user of online chat is yes, absolutely. If you are only an occasional dabbler, or are just looking to tick a feature off on your list of smartphone capabilities, then I would recommend waiting for a quality, cheaper or free option, although there is no sign that anything is really on the horizon.
What you are getting here is a high quality, reliable chat client with a wide ranging list of supported standards. It uses the WP7 feature set well and I think that, especially for chat addicts, this is an essential app that helps to complete the Windows Phone experience.
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