I switched back to an iPhone. Partially because of the ecosystem (hell, I have Mac everything else), but also because now Sprint and Google Voice play nice together, the big thing that always angered me about Apple’s phone has finally been fixed, since I’ll happily use the native dialer as long as I can use my Google network. The last outstanding issue was what to do about chat on the device. Losing Android meant losing the chat integration with Google Talk. Searching for “google talk” in the App Store was a lost cause. Here’s some of the better IM solutions.
First and foremost, there is no official native app. There’s only the Google Mobile Web which offers a webkit friendly IM client. Aside from it running in Safari, disconnecting on multitasking, being unable to send push notifications, and all around not working very well, it’s a reliable solution in a pinch. In other words, it really sucks. If you’re lucky, you can convince all of your friends to adopt Google+. For some reason, while there is no native Google Talk application for the iPhone, there is a native G+ app, with its own standalone messaging protocol that somehow doesn’t work with GTalk and only works on mobile devices. Still, if you’re hell bent on staying google-ful, it’s about the only game in town. Google+ in the App Store Free.
If you’re going to use a third party client, Verbs is very possibly the most beautiful game in town. It looks like it was straight out of Cupertino, including its price. It only connects to a few well-known services, and the push notifications require an in-application upgrade to Verbs Pro. However, for most people having AIM and GTalk available is all they ever wanted. For now, it’s on sale for $0.99, which is a pretty sweet deal. Verbs in the App Store $0.99, $4.99 in-app upgrade.
At the free end of the spectrum is an XMPP compliant solution called Monal. It connects directly to the server instead of a 3rd party service, has VPN support, and it looks like it will always be ad free as well. Since there is no 3rd party service, you won’t be able to get push notifications if the app is closed in the background by iOS. However, as long as the app is backgrounded, it will keep working. For people who need a VPN for their corporate Jabber, this might be a good solution. Monal in the App Store Free.
IMO is like Trillian and Meebo- a multi protocol messaging solution which also includes Google Talk as a service. If you’re going to try and use a single messenger for all your IM communications, something like this is idea. Having used IMO, there’s a lot of little UI issues that bug me (mostly around managing the online contact list). It also offers push notifications while backgrounded. If you’re a gamer, having access to Steam is a nice perk. Lastly, IMO also offers their own IM solution, but since this is about Google Talk, the answer is unlikely to add a second service to the mix. IMO in the App Store Free.
The king of iPhone IM for the longest time, Beejive connects to a good number of the major networks, keeps you connected, and was one of the first games in town when push notifications were created. If all you want is Google Talk support, you can skip paying the $10 and just get their Google Talk application for free. It works exactly like Beejive, so if you’ve used the application before, you probably have an opinion on it. While $10 for Google Talk was pushing the boundaries a bit, the low price of nothing is definitely appealing. Beejive for Google Talk in the App Store Free ($9.99 for things like AIM)
If you can make do with the Beejive for Google Talk, it’s probably the safest bet. It’s proven, works well, and doesn’t cost a thing. The biggest detractor is that it looks pretty ugly. At the other end of the spectrum, Verbs looks like it was built by Apple, including an extra $5 premium price tag over any other paid IM apps. I’ve used both. For now, I’m sticking with Verbs. While either will fit my needs, I really wanted IM to feel integrated like it did on my Android device. For that experience, Verbs just can’t be beat.