Back when I had a consumer phone, I used to text message my fair share. I remember the parental blowup when the heavy texting started…who thought 10 cents a message could add up so fast? But really, messaging goes further back than that.
Before I could even imagine everyone having a cell phone, I — and nearly all my friends — were AIM junkies. Cell phones just allowed us to take that computer-based messaging and move it to a mobile platform.
No, we couldn’t have endless conversations via text at 3 a.m. — though we certainly tried. But with the introduction of the smartphone, complete with full QWERTY keyboard — the game changed again.
Coupled with an unlimited text messaging plan, I can have those long conversations with friends, since typing a message doesn’t involve hitting the same button three times in a row — and especially since I don’t have to work some quirky T9 system where people are always typing “he” instead of “if.” But it can be even simpler than that.
If I’m so inclined, I can install any messenger I want on my BlackBerry. I’ve got MSN, AIM, and GChat on my computer at home, and it’s a simple process to install those programs and use the very same accounts I use on my laptop. Plus, I have the added bonus of text message. And then there’s the hidden gem of the BlackBerry world: BlackBerry Messenger.
It’s tried, it’s true, and it works to and from every cell phone nowadays. The best part is that the recipient doesn’t need any special software installed. As long as they’ve got a mobile phone, you’ve got a means of communication. There are some pitfalls, of course, including the fee you’ll incur if you don’t have a bundled text message plan. But in terms of simplicity, this is the tops — even if some messages get a bit bungled with T9.
Ah, the hidden gem in your BlackBerry. See, RIM has these messages routed through its BIS service, so these messages are not marked as text messages, nor are they marked as data. They’re actually free as free can be. So if you’re talking to fellow BlackBerry Geeks, this is probably the best method. All you need is your PIN number, and the PIN number of whoever you want to talk to. Of course, in order to do this, you’ll need to know your PIN.
It’s printed on the box your BB came in, but chances are you don’t have that lying around anymore. Just click “Options” and then “Status.” Your PIN will be listed there. It’s eight digits long. Once you know your PIN, head to the BlackBerry Messenger icon — the red dialogue bubble with the dots — and start adding contacts. You’ll have to get everyone else’s PIN, but once you do, it’s hellooooo free messaging.
This has really revolutionized the way I IM on my computer. Forever and a day, I was an AIM user. But once I graduated college, I got a bit frustrated with it. Don’t ask me why; I don’t think I can properly explain it. It’s a combination of a number of things, really, including all the people I had added during my college years and don’t talk to at all. It was around this time I started to use Gmail. No, it’s not the prettiest interface, but it’s uber-efficient.
The “conversation” system is so good that I’m very surprised that other email clients haven’t adopted it. And while it doesn’t have traditional folders, organizing and archiving your emails into “labels” is an acceptable substitute. But the best part of Gmail is that you can chat with other Gmail users while you’re checking your mail. And since many people keep their mailboxes open all day, this has led to a kind of instant messaging revolution.
The best part, of course, is that the list starts fresh, so I’m only talking to the people I want to talk to.
Installing GoogleTalk on your BlackBerry is simple. Just point your BlackBerry to http://www.blackberry.com/GoogleTalk.
You can access it from your computer if you wish, but only if you’re using Internet Explorer (which you shouldn’t be — though maybe it will get better). You then just have to follow a few steps (selecting you language, agreeing to terms, finally hitting the “download” button, which downloads and installs it for you). From there, just click on the GoogleTalk icon, and enter in your Google account info. If you don’t have one, you can sign up at Gmail.com.
MSN and Yahoo
This is the computer IMer of choice here at BBGeeks. And so it makes perfect sense that I would want the application on my BlackBerry. Installing it is as easy as it was for Google. Just point your BlackBerry browser to http://www.blackberry.com/livemessenger, and you’ll see a similar screen to that of the GoogleTalk download. It warns that you’ll need a Passport ID, which you can obtain at http://www.getlive.com, though you’ll have to do so from your desktop browser.
Unfortunately, I get a message that tells me that my system doesn’t meet the requirements of MSN. That’s because apparently it doesn’t work on Verizon. So we’ll go over a workaround later on in this piece for all you VZW people. This was a bit disappointing, since I used MSN Messenger to handle both my Live Messenger contacts and my Yahoo Messenger contacts.
I ended up using an all-in-one client to solve this problem, and yes, I’ll go over this in just a minute (or you can scroll right down to the heading if you so desire). But Yahoo’s messenger goes by the same process. Point your BB browser to http://www.blackberry.com/YahooDownload and follow the uniform RIM download instructions.
Ah, old faithful. And because it’s run through RIM, it’s an easy download. Same process as before, actually. Just point your BB browser to http://www.blackberry.com/aim and click through the download. You can nab a user ID if you don’t have one — though if you don’t have one now, do you really want one at all? — at AIM.com. The installation is simple, and you’ll be chatting to your fellow AIM junkies in no time.
Yeah, some people still use ICQ. And I don’t meant that in a derogatory manner. I used to use a ton to collaborate, so I understand the virtues of the system. And since there is still a demand for it, RIM has made it available through its website. So go to http://www.blackberry.com/icq and follow the download instructions. You’ll have to visit ICQ.com to get a user ID. But after that, it’s as simple as ever.
There are a number of all-in-one instant messaging applications out there, and each has its ups and downs. Unfortunately, many of them cost money. It makes sense, since people took the time to write these applications. However, If you want the free version, head over to EQO. Their application gives you free access to MSN, AIM, Yahoo, GoogleTalk, QQ, ICQ, and Jabber. To use this, click “Get EQO” from eqo.com. You’ll have to register, which literally takes a minute. You’ll then be sent a text message that brings you to the download. You can also download it to your PC, or download it from your BlackBerry browser at get.eqo.com.
Once you have it installed, run the program. It’ll take a few minute to initialize, and then you’ll be at the main screen. Click all the way right to the IM services icon, and click the menu button to add new IM services. Of course, it isn’t perfect. The lists take a while to populate, and there’s a “$2.50″ sign in the upper left corner. It does offer voice and texting services through it, which might account for that $2.50. I don’t plan to use those features, so I can’t report on them. But I’ll certainly update if I see something on my bill next month.
There are a number of other multi-network applications, but as I said, they do cost money. Some are an annual subscription, some are a one-time fee. But you can check out the following: IM+ — one time $49.95 fee, free to try for 7 days.
Bee Jive — $29.99 for a user license, $19.99 for a device license, free for 30 days.
Yak On — $19.99 for a license, free for 15 days.
Causerie — $29.99 for a normal license, $39.99 for a premier license. Know of any other quality all-in-one IM clients? Leave ‘em in the comments.