It seems odd the iPhone has no iChat client

As a Mac-user, one of the unanticipated pleasures of using an iPhone is hearing all the same alert sounds on the phone that I hear on my computer. For example, when I get new email on my iPhone, I’m alerted by the the same ping sound I hear on my Mac. And when I send e-mail, I hear the same swoosh sound as I hear on Apple mail.

Because of those — and other — things which seem so like my Mac, it seems all-the-more odd there is no iChat client on the iPhone. There are rumors of one in the pipeline and third-party browser hacks. But iChat needs to be a part of the iPhone sooner, rather than later. I can understand the economic incentive on AT&Ts part to prefer users us SMS rather than instant messaging, but there are many aspects of the iPhone that circumvent the cell-phone’s transaction-oriented business model (i.e., the complaints of no “picture mail” misses the point that it’s easy to use browser-based tools to send photos without requiring either party to pay for text-messaging charges).

Bottomline: Where’s my iChat?

Bonus link: Steve Rubel posts several ideas for making an iPhone an extension of ones computer — a “mobile nerve center,” he calls it. (Because I follow Steve on Twitter, I’ve been picking up these hints a little at a time over the past few days.)

Later: Om Malik finally breaks down and gets an iPhone and says it needs iChat — more than it needs YouTube. (However, I think the YouTube feature is rather fun and it’s the feature I first show to someone who’s under the age of 20.)

  • scott

    just use meebo.

    also, you’re totally missing the boat on the current lack of a built-in im program and the the lack of mms.

  • Rex Hammock

    Scott, while wwwm.meebo.com works as a means to use instant-messaging on the iPhone, it, like the other browser-based ‘solution’ I pointed to are not the type of native app to which I’m referring. And I’m sure you are correct when you are say I’m missing the boat on the lack of MMS, as I have no idea to what you’re referring. I’m simply a user of a device and am saying what the device seems to be missing.

  • scott

    Since I cannot sleep, here is a longer reply. I have broken it down by issue:

    Meebo
    If it works, who cares whether it is native? If anything, Meebo (and smiliarly Adium should there be an iPhone-optimized version down the road) provide a superior solution to iChat by offering multiple IM clients in one interface. With iChat, you’re only going to have AIM (i’m not including Bonjour, because really, I don’t think anyone is pining for Bonjour). While the browser-based “solution” is far from ideal, there’s not a whole lot of alternatives at the moment. There is no native VOIP client for the iPhone either, but someone found a way to do it, and that will make a lot of people happy. Sometimes 3rd party people do things better, anyway. I wouldn’t say you are “missing” anything. If you choose to ignore 3rd party options, that’s your choice. People who want to IM on an iPhone, can.

    iChat
    Yes, it IS odd that they left off some form of a native IM client, but the way they designed this current rev.a iPhone, iChat would be rather pointless (even though it would be the default program offered). People would complain – “Why is it that only AIM works? I want yahoo! I want GoogleTalk! Etc. Etc. Etc.” Imho, I want a full-featured IM client that will allow me to use a variety of chat programs. This is why there would still be a Meebo option. Besides, is it really worth having iChat just to hear the same old *blip* when you get a message? I say no. Now, had apple gone with a front-facting camera, the clamoring for iChat would be considerably more justifiable. However, You couldn’t really do video chats on this iPhone. Well, I take that back, you could, but it would require using a mirror or opting not to be able to view your screen. The former is far from ideal for obvious reasons (like what happens when you don’t have a mirror nearby), and the latter would lead to complaints because people couldn’t chat with other users, or see what the person on the other end is doing. Note that both of these options, for lack of a better term, suck.

    Presently, there are very few such devices offering front-facing cameras, but market/consumer pressure will likely change that over the next 12 months or so. Why? ATT recently announced that they are rolling out a video chat service (some phones currently available will support it). It is, as you would expect, a way for people to do live video chats on their phone. You don’t need to have a video camera on your phone, simply the right internal bits that will allow you to receive it and watch the feed (so for example i could turn on my cam and do a voice chat with someone where they could watch me, but all i could do is hear their voice). As more and more consumers warm to the idea, manufacturers will have to respond with front-camera products. Yes, there will be data usage issues with this, but carriers these days are all about upselling and finding new revenue streams (see ringtones, games, audio/video content, sms/mms) as basic phone service price plans continue to drop. Video chat could very well be the next big thing.

    IM clients generally
    As I mentioned earlier, I could not sleep. Because of this, I actually bothered to go through all of the phones currently offered by ATT. Outside of the child-targeted Firefly (which has been discontinued), a now out of date Blackberry 8700c, and the nokia 9300, all of the phones they offer include IM capabilities. So what gives with the iPhone? It’s omission is a glaring one, and flies in the face of all the other existing ATT products. There is simply no good reason to keep an IM client off the iPhone and it is certainly not for sms/text plan packages and upgrades. The economic interest of sms plans would run generally independent of IM client inclusion. Why? Because a lof of the people in the target demographic were going to get a bigger text plan anyway (likely an unlimited plan). in fact, people who have one of these other ATT phones that offer IM usually have a large text package anyway, as that is a preferable method of short communication for some people. I would also argue that the IM and text operate in such distinct ways that I think it’s best to consider them as separate communication tools. I don’t use them the same way, and I am guessing I am not alone. They each provide plusses and minuses and times when they are ideal for use.

    MMS
    this stands for multimeda messaging services – sending photos, video and sounds like you would a text message. I didn’t bother to go through and count all the phones that have this capability, but I hope you will believe me when I say it is not a rare feature amongst current phones. Your upload to a web service comment misses the boat on a few levels. I guess the main problem with such a stance is that it’ is incredibly web 1.0. The name of the game now is mobility – you should know this. People want stuff now. They want it fast. Picture/video/audio messaging provides this instant gratification need. Shoot > view > send to friend(s). That is quick, easy and doesn’t require a web-based photo hosting service to muck things up. There’s also nothing stopping people from uploading these photos to their flickr account if they so choose, but that’s not the point.

    A lot of phones have HORRIBLE WAP browsers. I am fortunate to be able to run Opera’s mobile browser (and it is pretty good), but a lot of people cannot. The time it takes to fire up the internet (remember, not everyone has a 3g-capable phone), enter the person’s flickr.com/username page, search for the pic, click on it and then wait for it to upload is way too long and generally inconvient to do from a phone when the alternative is just click your pic, hit send to and select the person’s name out of your phonebook. I think I could drive from the airport to the green hills mall in the time it would take me to do all that browser-based pic viewing on my old phone – yes, it was that bad.

    Under your browser-based view, far too many people would have to wait until they got home to view the pic, thus negating a lot of the point in picture messaging. It would also mean people would have to use a second service for video (like youtube). I think most people would rather stick with the ease of phone-based MMS. If you want to move it to the web, fine…but that should be a choice the user makes, not a requirement.

    Finally, The cost issues is not really much of a problem. People like texting and picture/video messaging. I’d be willing to bet that if you polled 1000 people and gave them the choice of unlimited sms/mms or internet access on their 2″ screen flip phone, the bulk of those asked would go with messaging.

    anyway, that’s just my 2c on the matter.

  • I agree with you Rex. iChat and ToDos are probably the two biggest apps missing from the iPhone.