Recently I’ve started using an external bluetooth keyboard with my iPhone occasionally. I’ve written lots as a result. Not all of it stuff I want to share publicly, but it is quite nice to be able to sit in the dining room and type away, without faffing about with extension leads to plug my laptop in. Or at a friend’s house at their living room table, without HAVING to bother connecting to wifi (what with 3G for occasional usage, built into the phone, etc.)
Despite how good an opportunity this is to remove distractions, I instantly started looking at MSN-messenger compatible clients to use with this new setup. It isn’t at the height of popularity it once enjoyed, but I still use MSN to talk to a handful of people. I went to the App store/Google, and these seemed to be three quite well recommended ones. So, here it is. A short test of each.
Note: These are all either free, or paid versions of the same software (but that just remove adverts).
Another note: Despite time on the phone, I didn’t spend 30 seconds on each. I tried each out, then went back for the screenshots.
Not bad. It feels a bit basic, but it mostly works for me.
I had two main problems with it. One, is this. Whenever you leave the app to do something like check your mail or google something, when you return, you get this where your contact list should be:
The length of time it spends doing the “updating” part varies. Sometimes it was quick, sometimes it took quite a long time. It does this EVERY time you leave the app and go back in. Check Twitter, go back, updating. I’ve been gone 8 seconds. What does it need to update? It got old quickly.
Problem #2, was something that will only affect me on the iPhone really. But when typing to someone using an external keyboard, and you try and scroll back up using the keyboard cursor keys, although the cursor moves, the bit shown on screen didn’t. So if the person you’re chatting to says something that renders the first 3 words of your sentence irrelevant, you have to delete yours to get back to it.
This got a much shorter test than the other two clients, basically because it wouldn’t log in properly the first time. It would accept my details, you go to login and you got a message like this:
I knew there were at least two people online, because I’d been speaking to them merely seconds ago, in a different client. I abandoned it, and came back to it a bit later (these photos are are all from the second later attempt), when it actually did find me people to chat to.
Sadly, it had problem #2 from imo.
You can’t scroll up, using an external keyboard. No idea if this has the same bug on the iPad (a scenario much more likely to find people using external keyboards).
I was initially put off this one, as it has the biggest download, so I presumed it would take up the most memory, possibly run the slowest, etc. It seemed to load fine, and although sometimes I hate photographic background things, I like the layout of this one.
You can vary the background a bit so it’s more/less pronounced, in case you find it hard to read the text over whatever you have as your background image (which can be one of theirs, or a picture of your own choice).
It didn’t seem to suffer from the scrolling-up-and-down bug that the other two experienced. You could do shift-up or shift-down to select lines, or just the up/down keys to scroll.
It also worked flawlessly in landscape (which is a layout likely more commonly used if you have it in a stand and are using an external keyboard). See:
So this is my preferred one, that I have continued using.
The only downside is that it’s a rather expensive (by iPhone apps standards) £2.49 to remove the adverts. And I found the adverts quite annoying from the start, so had to whip them straight out.