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Choosing the Right IM App

A Beginner's Guide to Picking the Best IM App for Your Mobile Device


mobile IM apps
Image, Florin Ungureanu/SXC
Despite naysayers, instant messaging has found new life with the growth of the mobile device market. From tablets to web-enabled MP3 players and an extensive list of mobile smart devices, there are now literally dozens of IM apps and mobile web messengers to choose from. But, finding the right one for your needs takes a little consideration.

In this guide for IM app beginners, you’ll learn how to find the right application for your needs so you can start sending instant messages to friends, family and colleagues from your favorite mobile devices, whether you are at home or on the road.

First, Consider Your Options

Before you even begin to dive into your device’s app market, you should consider exactly what you expect from your next IM app. Do you need multi-protocol, all-in-one access to a number of IM client networks, like eBuddy Messenger or IM+, or are the majority of your contacts on a single service, like Facebook?

Do you need voice or video chat capabilities? Having the answers to these and other questions will help you eliminate a number of choices before you download an IM app.

Second, Know Your Device Capabilities

Nothing is more heart breaking than falling in love with an app you cannot use because the application is not supported by your device. Before you begin searching, you should know the following about your device: type, operating system and available space. When you search for your new IM app, having this information available will help you know whether an app will work for your mobile device.

1. What is my device type?
This one should be a no-brainer: Do you have an iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, Blackberry or Windows Phone device? Not all apps are available across every platform. In fact, some iPhone IM apps are not available as Android IM apps or on other platforms and vice versa..

2. What is my operating system?
Not only should you know what operating system your device is running, but you should also know the specific number. This is important because while some IM apps are supported by older versions of your device’s software, others will require the most recent release.

Here is how to find out what OS your device is running plus available space:

  • How to Find Your iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad OS
    1. Click the “Settings” cogwheel icon on your device.
    2. Tap “General” from the Settings list.
    3. Press “About” to access your device information.
    4. Scroll to “Version” and make note of the number listed.
    5. Look for “Available” and record this number. This is the total space available on your Apple device.
  • How to Find Your Android OS
    1. Hit the menu button.
    2. Click “Settings” from the menu.
    3. Select “About Phone” or similar option from list.
    4. Scroll to “Android version” and make note of the number listed.

    To find available space on your Android device, select “Storage” from the Settings menu and scroll to “Internal storage.” The number listed under available space should be noted.

  • How to Find Your Blackberry Version
    1. Hit “Options” from your Blackberry device.
    2. Select “About” from the list which appears.
    3. Your version number appears as “v4.5.0.37” or similar. Take note of these numbers.
    4. Select “Memory” from Options menu to find how much space remains for IM apps, etc.
  • How to Find Your Windows Phone OS Version
    1. Hit “Settings” from your Windows Phone programs list.
    2. Select “About” from the list which appears.
    3. Click “More Info” to access your device information.
    4. Find “OS Version” and record the numbers.
    5. Look for “Available Space” and record these numbers.

    Once you have recorded this information, you are ready to start shopping for your new messenger app from your device’s app store or market.

Getting Started in Your Device’s App Market
While each mobile device is different, you may be required to have an account with their app market or store before you are able to download free or premium IM apps. Learn more about getting started on your device’s market here:

  1. About.com
  2. Technology
  3. Instant Messaging
  4. Getting Started on IM
  5. Choosing an IM Client
  6. Best Instant Messaging Apps - Mobile Devices

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