Updated September 17, 2008, at 8:03 am PT.
Yahoo's OneConnect for iPhone is a strange compilation. More complicated in construct than an instant messenger application, OneConnect has worked in elements of social networking and contact management, to mixed results. We CNET Editors have found its content-loading and refreshing laggy, its social networking capabilities limited, and its ideas about storing and managing messages and contacts odd. Yet, OneConnect has potential as a broader communications application, and it's refreshing to see an iPhone application that attempts to create something new rather than simply pare down a pre-existing online service.
There are five screen views in Yahoo OneConnect, most whose functions connect to one other. For instance, you need to the add social networks you'd like to monitor in the Settings window before you can view them in Pulse. The best way to hold a conversation in the Message window is to start it in the Contacts window, though you'll have to go through an additional page of contact information in order to begin chatting.
Not all that intertwining is bad. As with the desktop version of Messenger, you can turn OneConnect into a beefed-up address book that can place calls and send e-mails and SMS messages as well as it can an instant message--provided you have already added additional information or don't mind doing so for the greater good of your Yahoo account.
There are some nice design elements with OneConnect's chatting, in particular the emoticon button that lets you drop emoticons, URLs, or photos into the chat, and a landscape mode that shows chat bubbles with your avatars as a backdrop. However, OneConnect requires you to make an all-new avatar for you and a friend instead of pulling in ones you've already made, and there's no button to clear all the contents of the message window after conversations pile up.
From the social networking perspective, OneConnect is a diet formula. It will give a diligent readout of status updates and photos, and will in turn let you update your status to any or all your social networks. However, unless your Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, or Bebo companion is also a Yahoo pal, you'll have to be content to passively absorb their stories, or else leave the application to respond.
I stand by my previous assertion that OneConnect would be better off opening its application to multiple networks to gain users before the other guys fill up the market (Palringo is the only multinetwork player on our radar.) Otherwise, the social networking portion is too flimsy to attract proactive networkers, which leaves the IM portion too overdone to be its most useful and the address book components too secondary and duplicating to drive the application forward.
Despite these flaws, I'll also stand by Yahoo OneConnect's potential and general appeal. If Yahoo can work out the kinks, it could make something of the communications application. I'm not convinced that simply reproducing social network feeds is the way to go, but if Yahoo can elegantly work social network updates, IM, e-mail, and phone numbers into a user's profile, this application could command some strong attention.