Mobile Colloquy, the mobile counterpart of the popular Mac OS X IRC client, has hit Apples AppStore.
Even though this is the first release in its current form (there once was a version for jailbroken iPhones) and is only at version 1.0 right now, it already has quite a huge featurelist and a very polished UI. It’s built using the same framework, called Chat Core, as the desktop version.
The mobile version is opensource too, but unlike the desktop version – which is free – it costs $1.99 (€1.59). The sourcecode is freely available from SVN though, so you may build your own version – provided you do have Apples iPhone SDK.
As already mentioned, the user-interface is really clean and intuitive for Mac-users – but users coming from other operating systems won’t have a problem with it either as it is kind of self-explanatory and everything does what you expect it to do.
Auto-connect on startup is there, auto-join channels is included – although that is currently lacking the ability to automatically join keyed / +k channels which you however can do manually. In the Advanced Settings screen you can configure stuff like SSL for connections, change the port you connect to and specify a password for Nickserv and the likes.
Once you’re done configuring your stuff you’re presented with a two-tabbed screen where you can see your current connections on one (“Connections”) and on the other tab (“Colloquies”) you do have your channels and private messages. This screen is sorted by networks with each networks open channels and private messages associated to it. Each of the channels and queries can have a small bubble next to it that displays the numbers of unread lines from the last time you looked into it and if somebody highlighted you it’ll display a red bubble next to the blue one – very neat and very clearly laid out.
One thing IRC nuts may hate to see is the timer in the Connection tab – you now easily can see how much time you are wasting on IRC – Advice: turn a blind eye.
In the Colloquies tab you can see the last few lines of every channel and PM so you can determine whats going on even when not paying attention to a particular channel. Speaking of highlights – by default it’ll highlight when somebody says your nick – but the list of things to highlight on is expandable. And to top it all off – when somebody highlights you, the phone vibrates – or not, when you disable it.
Choice on what to en- or disable seems to be a strength of Mobile Colloquy – there is a boatload of options to choose from and each one comes with a pretty sane default, not all bells and whistles are enabled by default which i think is a plus. Bells and whistles it does have quite a few, you even can pick one of various styles. Want your conversations to look like you know from the SMS app on the phone? No problem, just pick the according style! The downside of changing styles is that you have to close down Mobile Colloquy for that and go to the iPhones settings, change it, and start it again.
But not all is lost – literally – as it saves parts of the last chatter on the channels you visited and displays it once you get back into them – not quite a bouncer with log replay, but hey…
Aside from the “usual stuff” like color support and basic formatting like writing in bold and underlined it does have a few notable and distinctive features too. For one, it sports nick completion from the input box – you start to type and it matches your input against the nicklist; you then only have to tap the upcoming hint to have it “tab-completed” – very cute and useful. iPhone users with firmware 2.2 and up do get graphical emoticons too (not pictured here as i’m still on 2.1).
Revolutionary for IRC apps on the iPhone can the next feature be called: Typing in landscape mode! Yes, you read that right – tilt your device to the side and there you go. But this is not only for the chat screens, also the two-tabbed main screen works in landscape mode – nifty!
Also unique is the searchable nicklist you can reach by hitting the “people” icon in the upper right in channel view. From there you can do the expected things: /whois and query the selected person. Not so unique but useful nonetheless is the built-in browser you can use to surf to a link from within Mobile Colloquy – you can open that link in Mobile Safari from there then too (or open it with Mobile Safari by default if you set it like that) but that involves closing down the chat app as you already might have guessed.
To sum it all up, chatting with Mobile Colloquy is a great experience and not far from that offered by desktop software – it’s just that seamless and intuitive! The few quirks here and there are probably ironed out in the near future as the developer-team is pretty open to suggestions and with a 1.0.1 bugfix release just around the corner they’re already one step closer.
Thanks go to jane and kiji from the Mobile Colloquy team for providing me with a free copy of it to write this review – i guess i’ll keep using it if i am allowed
Thanks go to avarus too as he helped me getting that image stuff right – finally…
Note: Just as i’ve hit the “Publish” button, the 1.0.1 update was available in the AppStore so grab it while it’s hot.