Fair and free

Multi-IM chat app Palringo sports some useful iPhone-specific features, but it's not an IM panacea by a long shot.

Supporting eight chat protocols and some neat extras, Palringo Lite can handle Apple iChat, AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger, Gadu Gadu, ICQ, Jabber, and Windows Live Messenger. It's a good all-in-one chat app if you're determined to keep it free, but for the real theatrics, you'll need to go pro.

You'll need a Palringo account to get started, but that's easy to create from the application. Like most other chat apps, Palringo Lite organizes by contacts, messages, and groups, with other settings to help fine-tune. Push notification can also alert you to missed IMs, though the service was slow in our tests. Palringo's picture and voice messaging features worked instantly, but we would like the option of reviewing audio messages before they transmit. Friends on other networks receive both as Palringo-hosted links, where your media remains for 30 days. Palringo Lite also supports archived messages and file transfers, but only between Palringo users. These features unfortunately are unavailable for out-of-network buddies.

The Premium version ($4.99) includes such extras as landscape mode, visible buddy icons, and themes. We'd settle for file transfers and message archiving, ourselves. But for everyday chatting with friends on multiple networks, Palringo Lite will do the job with little fuss.

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