MunduIM for webOS Review

So here we have it, the long awaited all-in-one, instant messaging app for webOS – MunduIM by Geodesic Ltd. It was just released to the App Catalog this morning, which was I’m sure a welcome sight for a lot of people. Particularly those that are waiting for the very first webOS app that supports Facebook chat. But how does it fair? And with no trial or lite version, is it worth the pennies? Well read on…we shall poke a little deeper and find out.

First impressions

Upon firing the app up for the first time, it quickly leads you to adding your desired IM accounts, which you can choose between Yahoo, MSN, AIM, gTalk, Facebook chat (wooo!) and XMPP (jabber for the non-plussed). It’s pretty straight forward, as you’d expect, just tap in your details. You also have the option to add a custom avatar to each account. Once you’re done, hit ‘add’ and it’ll flick you back to the main accounts screen and attempt to sign you in. From here you can tap on each account to induce a pop up menu which will let you manage it: login, logout, edit or remove.  Once you are signed in to at least one account, at the bottom right ‘Show Buddies’ will change from being greyed out and allow you to pursue your victim of choice!  All very straightforward, but simplicity reigns king and you’re not going to have to flick through multiple screens to manage your accounts individually.

I will have to divert off the track a little here.  There is one major problem that needs to be addressed and specifically needs to be pointed out, and made obvious by the developer, which is the need for a little ‘fiddling’ to get Facebook chat to work. All day long I (and countless others) have been trying to add their account with no success, however the reason behind this is because Facebook do not have Mundu listed as an authorised app. To combat this, you need to log on to Facebook on your PC and you will be prompted with some security questions due to an unauthorised chat access to your account. Once you do this, the app will be able to communicate with Facebook. Now to elaborate further on sign-in issues. Facebook now uses chat under the jabber protocol, and for me, selecting the actual ‘facebook’ account option in ‘add acounts’ didn’t work. I selected ‘XMPP’ which is jabber, and entered my details and finally Facebook chat was signed in. This really should have been pointed out by the developers, whether you are charging  for an app or not. It’s not great to let your customers fend for themselves.

Now on to the guts.

I’ll start with a positive. I like the dark theme. I much prefer to use something with a dark theme over a bright white, eye straining UI. Now I’m struggling. I know this is a 1.0.0 release, but I don’t know, I expect more considering this app has taken so long to come out.  A massive text entry box which when you type in it, BLACK text on a BLACK (ish) background. The text you receive from your contacts is also black. Why not white? Or just the ability to change the font colour would be very welcome. Again, as I said before, this is an initial release and I would be very much surprised if these options were not added in future releases.  But I’ve come to expect more quality from webOS apps, we’re spoilt with the likes of Bad Kitty, TweetMe, foursquare, zipsquare to name but a few. And especially as even quoted by the developers on their website ‘spruced up…’ I don’t think I’m being too unfair here. Generally, the UI is pretty ‘stock’ looking and some of the icons, like the send button, look a little cheap.

One other major bug bear is the notification system. One word sums this up – UGLY. Ok, you expect a truncated message when your IM first pops up, but when it minimises in the tray and you tap on it later, you just get greeted with an entirely black bar that says ‘1 message’. Ahem…’spruced’?.  Another gripe is proper backgrounding; when the user closes the card the app will close and you won’t receive notification of IM’s as you would do a text message, gTalk or AIM from the standard Messaging app.  It’s also worth noting that the only sound option you get for being alerted to a notification is the beep reminiscent of the sound of the dialer application, which I thought was a strange choice. Differentiates from other app sounds? Maybe.  A custom sound notification option I’m sure will come in a future release.

Wait! There are some good points really.

For all its UI let-downs, this app has something great going for it. Speed. It’s very quick to use, switch between active-chats, close chats down, quickly switch to buddies.  I guess in its defence, this is the main thing you want nailed with an IM app, something which you are using quickly and want efficiency with, so the fact that the app doesn’t have loads of fancy looking UI elements to load probably works in its favour here. So In fairness, performance is the biggest hurdle for any developer, and this app has the basics right. We just need to see a little more ‘fluff’ and something which will make this webOS app look beautiful and unique.

To conclude…

A long awaited app that delivers the core goods, but will need a bit more before it can be classed as a great app. The developer could gain from becoming closer with users to address important sign-in issues, but…it’s an OK start. And for you US users, I would advise if you’re thinking of buying this app, to buy it now for $1.50 whilst the Palm half price sale bonanza is still on. For European users, it’s £2.19. Get it here!

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