With ICQ Messenger 3.1 (free), ICQ, the pioneering instant messaging (IM) desktop client from the mid-90s, is attempting to reinvent itself as a mobile app. Like Whatsapp and Viber, ICQ Messenger lets you send free, unlimited text and photo messages to your contacts. It also streams updates from a few social networking feeds. As a result, ICQ Messenger is half IM, half social media aggregator, and neither half works particularly well.
For the uninitiated, ICQ (a play on "I seek you") was the first instant messaging (IM) platform to really take off when it launched in 1996. It vanished just as quickly once competitors like AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, and Google Talk entered the scene, and was eventually snapped up by AOL in 1998 before being sold to Digital Sky for less than half the price AOL paid for it, in 2010.
After registering, you can import your contacts from your ?Android address book, Facebook, Google Talk, StudiVZ (a German Facebook clone), and ICQ. The app opens your browser to log into these third-party networks, which feels very archaic. Most multi-client messengers these days let you sign in within the app. ?
Connecting to Facebook and Google took minutes, which feels like a lifetime in an app. Furthermore I couldn't select individual contacts from my social networks to add, I could only import entire network lists. I mean, I follow more than 500 people on Twitter, but I certainly don't want to import them all!
If someone in your contact list isn't on Facebook or Twitter?like my mom, for instance?the only action you can take is to invite him or her to join ICQ first, before you can send another message. The same goes for Whatsapp, but Whatsapp is already so popular that you?re bound to find a good portion of your contact list already on there.
None of my phone contacts were on ICQ, so I created another ICQ account to communicate with myself in the Android app.
Quick, Free Messaging
ICQ Messenger delivers messages instantly. The messaging interface is very slick, featuring the same bright color scheme as in the original ICQ. In the Android app, you can send your geolocation or a photo as well.
Like with Google Talk, ICQ Messenger works cross-platform, so users can message each other through either mobile or PC clients. And yes, when you receive an ICQ message through your Android device, you do hear "uh oh!" However, the familiar sound alert was given an echo treatment and now sounds? sultry.
You can send messages to non-ICQ contacts using the app, but they're delivered via the same platform from which you imported the contacts. In other words, if you added Calvin, Susie, and Hobbes to your ICQ list through Facebook, messages you send them will only be delivered to their Facebook message inbox. Same goes for Google Talk.
On the other hand, if a non-ICQ contact initiates a message, ICQ Messenger does not reflect this.
The app's home screen features four tabs, two of which I wouldn't use regularly: Contacts, Chats, Feeds, My Info. The first two are self-explanatory to anyone who's used an instant messaging app. Contacts lists all your contacts, Chats lists all your chats (history included).
Feeds, on the other hand, is an RSS of all updates across your integrated social networks. It's similar to Hootsuite?except to a much lesser extent since ICQ only supports Facebook, Google Talk, and that German Facebook. You can only "like" or comment on updates. Furthermore, scrolling gets jerky the further down you go.?
When you tap the My Info tab you can see Notifications (like if someone comments on your status) and My Updates, which is a list of your own status updates. ?This whole tab felt like an incredible waste of one-fourth of the app's interface.
Fun For Nostalgia's Sake
ICQ Messenger for Android is a fast, free mobile messenger, but like that vintage typewriter you keep for nostalgia's sake, it's more quaint that useful. Whatsapp and Viber do a much better job of importing contacts. Furthermore, few people in the U.S. actively use ICQ anymore, so the app's utility is limited to messaging your Facebook and Google Talk friends. You?ll find superior social media aggregators in Hootsuite and Seesmic. ICQ Messenger for Android has a lot of potential design-wise, and will appeal to sentimentalists like myself, but until more people join there are better instant messaging apps out there.
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