Android finally has a few good IM apps in the Market, but if you're looking for multi-protocol IM, it's hard to beat Imo. It's got an incredibly intuitive design, easy-to-use sign in process, voice IMs, and support for all the most popular protocols.
- Supports the most popular IM protocols: AIM/ICQ, Jabber, Facebook, Google Talk, MSN, MySpace, Skype, and Yahoo.
- No account required, and after the first session, logging into one of your accounts will log you into all of them. Once you've linked your accounts together, logging into Imo on another device will log you into all of them as well. You can even log in on more than one device at a time.
- You can send voice IMs, share images, videos, and other files through Imo's file sharing service.
- Support for Android's multitasking means you get configurable notifications for incoming IMs, even when you aren't in the app.
- Save chat logs to Imo's servers.
- You can add buddies to your "favorites" list, so when you want to, you can view the more compact "favorites" buddy list instead of your long one.
- You can create shortcuts to chat with any given contact on your home screen.
- One of the best-looking, most easy-to-use interfaces of Android IM clients.
- A beta version on the Android Market that will get you all the latest features before they're officially released.
Where it Excels
One of Imo's biggest perks is its very good-looking interface, especially when compared to some of the uglier competition. Its interface is also extremely simple, making it easy to log in, check out your buddy list, and start chatting. The fact that you don't need an account to sign up (but that it'll still save your linked accounts, chat logs, and other info across platforms) is great. Extra features like adding contact shortcuts to your home screen are pretty great too.
Where it Needs Work
There are few downsides to this app; it's pretty much everything one could want in a mobile IM client. The image sharing is a little janky, which instead of sharing an image like most IMs, will just send them a link to the image on Imo's servers. I'd also love to see some support for combining contacts, but that might be getting nitpicky. All in all, it's pretty awesome.
There are a quite a few IM clients on Android these days, but frankly, few of them really measure up to Imo. Trillian is almost as good, and if you use Trillian on the desktop I'd use it instead of Imo, but otherwise, Imo seems to be a little easier to use (and doesn't require another account). The GTalk app that comes with Android is also top-notch, but its lack of other protocols unfortunately make it impossible to call it the "best".
As far as other clients go, I've never been happy. The less-than-pretty interfaces of options like eBuddy and Meebo have always left me wanting more, and their connection isn't quite as reliable as I've found Imo to be. Imo seems to have nailed down the perfect balance between a simple, easy-to-use app and important, useful features, so it's the one we'd recommend checking out first.
Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories. This week, we're focusing on IM clients.