Google Talk on the iPhone, But Without the Talk
Okay, we get it: Google wants to be everywhere--even on your iPhone. For ultra chic techliciousness, Google and the iPhone together, it's a perfect match--like chocolate and peanut butter. But sometimes Google misses the mark, and that's exactly what it's done with its newly released Google Talk for the iPhone.
"We've just released in the US a new version of Google Talk designed specifically for the iPhone and iPod Touch browsers. In addition to sending your friends Gmail messages from your iPhone, you can now chat with them while you're on the move, too! In your iPhone browser, just go to www.google.com/talk, sign in and start chatting. That's it. Google Talk runs entirely in the browser so there's no need to download or install anything."
Sounds simple enough, right? It works; we've tried it. But, in our experience, most tech-savvy folks who use instant messaging (IM) want the app to always be running, ready to receive a message from one of their equally tech-savvy friends. You can't do that with Google Talk for the iPhone:
"There are some differences from using Google Talk on your computer. For instance, in order to receive instant messages with Google Talk on your iPhone, the application needs to be open in your Safari browser. When you navigate away to another browser window or application, your status will be changed to "unavailable" and your Google Talk session will be restarted when you return."
That seems mighty inconvenient to us. You can only actually receive messages when the Google Talk page is open and active on the screen. Isn't one of the primary advantages of IM that it can sit unobtrusively in the background, alerting your buddies that you are available to chat, while you go about using your device for other important tasks in the meantime, like playing Tetris?
And truth be told, most true tech-savvy IM'ers usually subscribe to multiple IM services and therefore prefer to run clients that support simultaneous IM sessions from multiple IM providers. Meebo for iPhone can do that; so can Trillian Astra. (Albeit Trillian Astra is still in private alpha.) Google Talk for the iPhone can't do that.
"Other than that, we've tried to keep the design as faithful to the desktop experience as possible, so it should be familiar to you."
Well, not exactly. There is one critical component missing from the iPhone version that is available with the Windows version: PC-to-PC VoIP calls. Mind you, we wouldn't necessarily expect that level of functionality with a Web-based iPhone app, but then don't call it Google Talk for iPhone. Google Chat for iPhone kind of has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?
Google has been mum on whether it is developing a stand-alone IM client for the iPhone for when the iPhone App Store goes online. Integrating VoIP functionality into an iPhone app might be considered redundant, but we'd at least like to see the ability to have the app stay active in the background. And if Google could include the ability to support other IM services in the client, then it just might actually have a winner.