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Ping! The future of Messaging on the iPhone

19 October 2009no comments iPhone Apps

logoWith the release of Ping! it looks like RIM’s Blackberry has nothing that the Apple iPhone hasn’t got!

Ping!, which has been available in the App Store since the beginning of October, is an iPhone-to-iPhone messaging system equivalent to BBM (Blackberry Messaging). It is based on Apple Push Notification Service which uses push technology to forward notifications from 3rd party servers to iPhone or iPod touch connected to the internet (Check out Nimbuzz for another great use of Push Notification).

Back to the app! Once it is installed on your iPhone or iPod Touch, the only setup required is to choose a username. This username is what will be used by other iPhone users to contact you. It is recommended to choose wisely for two reasons. The main one is that this username is your Ping! identity and what is used by other iPhone users to contact you. If it is not a name people usually know you by, they will not be able to find you.
The second reason is that for now, you cannot update your username. Personally, I don’t find this to be a problem: would you change for example your twitter username and cause confusion among your followers? I though not ! At the moment you can unregister from the service which allows you to re-register using a different username, although there will not be any way for your friends to find you again.
Once all set up, you are presented with a blank screen with 3 icons: The one on the bottom left looking like a cogwheel lets you access your setting and check the status of the server. It is fairly basic but does the job as there is not much to customise. The icon on the bottom right corner, looking like an envelope is more interesting: it allows you to notify people by email of your Ping! ID. That way no need to worry about typo when letting other people know, Ping! does it all for you. Finally the top right icon lets you compose new messages.
The screen to compose messages is identical to the iPhone SMS screen. Unfortunately, there are at the moment no “buddy” lists as in instant messaging, so when messaging people for the first time, you will have to make sure you type in the right user ID. Writing new messages to people you have already contacted is easier as Ping! remembers their IDs and auto-completes them. A good feature is that you can link Ping! IDs to contact in your address book, making it nicer to view the messages.
Once you start conversations with people, they show on what was previously the blank screen. Conversations are displayed in the same way as SMS or MMS are on the iPhone.
Main Screen
It’s still early days for this App and it can be improved (Buddy Lists, User settings, etc…), but to me, Ping! is a great alternative to SMS for iPhone-to-iPhone messaging in the same BBM has been for Blackberries.

(cross-posted on appboy)

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