MARCH 4, 2009 UPDATE – The ad-free, paid version of AIM for the iPhone went up on the iTunes Application Store today. As we initially reported, it costs $2.99, and is essentially the same as the free version, with the exclusion of advertising.
AOL has updated their AIM application for the iPhone, adding new features and a soon-to-be-released paid AIM app. The original AIM app was one of the first applications to appear on the iPhone. AOL hefts a lot of clout with millions of users and it's Time-Warner media ties, so it's little wonder they were featured so prominently when the iTunes Application Store launched.
Since then an abundance of IM applications for the iPhone have sprung up, most of them offering multi-network IM — a clear advantage if your contacts are spread across several IM systems.
This 2.0 version of AIM for the iPhone and iPod Touch adds several notable features. The AIM app is now location aware, allowing you the option of sharing where you are (with your contacts, not just anyone) . It also gives you a new buddy list group that shows you which of your contacts are nearby. Of course, for any of this to be of use, you've got to have contacts that are nearby, so unless you're a student, it's unlikely to be of much value beyond the “cool” factor.
The more practical addition is SMS alerts. Tired of waiting for Apple to open up the push notification capability (promised in Sept. 2008!), AIM now lets you choose to remain “signed in” for up to 24 hours, even after closing the app. To your contacts, you'll appear online, and when they send you an IM, you'll get text notification — partially emulating push notification. Note that although AIM sends these SMS notifications for free, you may incur telecom charges for the receipt of each message (depending on your plan).
Also new in this version is support for multiple accounts and the ability to send free SMS messages to anyone in your iPhone address book.
What's the catch?
There will be two versions with essentially the same features. The free version is advertising-supported; you'll have to put up with display ads on many of the screens. The paid version will cost $2.99 but be ad-free.
You can download or update the free version now. The paid version will be available soon (it's working it's way through the iTunes approval process).
Get another opinion…
- AIM for iPhone gets paid version, SMS alerts, location awareness – Ars Technica
- AIM beats Apple to fake background notifications on the iPhone – Venture Beat
- iPhone AIM App Gets Background Notifications, Free SMS Messages and… Ads – Gizmodo (has some good screenshots)