A few days ago, Google released the official Google Talk app for the iPhone and it’s not exactly what you would expect. The problem I found with it was that in order to receive instant messages, the application needs to be open in your Safari browser. Otherwise, your status will be changed to “unavailable” when you head off to another browser window or app, only to have your Google Talk session restarted when you return.
It’s a web-based program that does not install onto your device. On one hand, that’s a great feature, on the other, it’s severely hampered. What at first seems like a great alternative to using text messages ends up being a useless application. I often find I have text conversations over the course of a half hour or so if I am planning an evening with friends or figuring out where my wife and I are going to go for dinner. Here’s the thing – I will work on plenty of other things during my “conversation” such as taking calls, browsing the internet, and more. I’m not confined to keeping my SMS program open.
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Now, this isn’t Google’s fault. Rather, it’s a limitation of the Apple SDK. We all know that Google is not going to start offering this as a program you have to buy to get the full features. Their mobile team puts out the best app they can with what they are given. So what’s the deal? The Apple kit does not allow for applications like this to run in the background. My guess is that they are working on their own branded messaging client (iChat?) that people can buy through the App Store come July 11th, or later. Selling something for a few bucks that lets users stay connected to each other. Whether or not it would be only for iPhone users only is debatable at this point. AT&T has to be gnashing their teeth over something like this as they want to push their $20 unlimited text package on users. If Apple comes out with a viable alternative, that’s an awful lot of monthly revenue going out Ma Bell’s window.
Would an Android version of the same program act in similar manner? Probably not. An early version of the Android SDK has been hacked onto a Nokia n810 internet tablet. It’s already known that an XMPP service is running in the background at all times. This is promising, as it would have programs like Google Talk could be always on. Seriously, who wants their chat program set up so that the only time you can talk with friends is if both people have the exact same websites up on their phones at the exact same time?
A fully realized version would run in the background. It would also allow for VoIP conversation. I might be daydreaming here, but I picture something like this; A phone that jumps to Wi-Fi when it’s available and allows for conversations through GTalk much like the desktop version. Skype would also be a logical application to take advantage of phones capable of Wi-Fi calling. It’s a reach, but eBay is a founding member of the Open Handset Alliance and the current owner of Skype. Maybe Android could see an application coming that will do just those things. They spent over $2.5 billion dollars for it a couple years ago and have yet to do anything major with it.