Meebo IM goes native on Google Android--poorly

Company's multinetwork chat application for Google's mobile operating system has a handle on basics, but it's missing a few must-haves.

Meebo logo

Meebo for Google Android is not a terrible instant-messaging application. But it isn't a very good representation of what IM clients for the Android platform can do, or even a good representation of what Meebo itself can do.

In this first release, the free Meebo mobile application lets you chat with friends on the major IM networks--Yahoo, Windows Live Messenger, AOL, ICQ, Jabber, and Google Talk. It also runs in the background while you work on other applications and scrolls message notifications across the status tray. So far, so good.

However, that about plays out Meebo's feature set on Google Android--a disappointment for a product making its world debut of a native application and a disappointment for a company that has recruited 40 million unique users into its Web-messaging niche.

Meebo on Google Android.

Is it fair for me to hold Meebo to loftier standards? Absolutely. There are certain features common to competitive chat applications on any platform. Having an IM application save your log-in information is a must, and that goes double for a chat app that otherwise asks you to sign into six services every time you talk.

Notifications, simultaneous chats, emoticon support, and options are also must-haves. Of these, Meebo for Google Android has only notifications, and they're easily missed if you glance away from the screen. Though also limited, Meebo's iPhone-optimized site saves log-ins, supports some emoticons, and makes it easy to flip back to the buddy list.

Specific to this Androidized Meebo, I'd like to pick whether I get a buzz, a ding, or a text scroll to signal an incoming message. The organization of the buddy list should also be customizable, so I don't have to wear off the pad of my thumb scrolling through online and offline buddies from each service.

Meebo's team says the Android platform isn't holding back these features. They're just not ready yet. Of course, Meebo says, emoticons and log-in recall are coming 'round the bend. The company just wanted to get the application into users' hands quickly.

Meebo should have waited until there was more to offer.

As it is now, Meebo IM serves a purpose, but it isn't the only multinetwork IM application in the Android Market. Also free is IM+ All-in-One Instant Messenger, which provides a better multinetwork chatting experience on all counts--remembered log-ins, emoticon support, and incoming IM text that appears on the chat window.

Some users have complained about getting forced out of IM+ All-in-One Messenger, though that defect didn't plague my tests. Meebo's next attempt will hopefully bring it in line with this more competitive player.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.