Apple iMessage is a taste of what all integrated messaging will become. We show you how to link up conversations across your desktop PC, laptop and smartphone
Apple caused quite a stir last year when it added a feature called iMessage to its mobile devices. In essence, iMessage allows text-message conversations to be synchronised across its various mobile devices.
So a chat started with someone on an iPhone while on the bus can be resumed later with an iPad at home, with the full message history of both participants available for reference.
Better still, while iMessage works just like normal (SMS) text messaging when used on a mobile data connection, it seamlessly switches to Wifi when a network is available, which means messages can be sent without charge.
Of course, iMessage works only on Apple products but something similar can be set up for text messaging on non-Apple smartphones and even Windows PCs.
With a little effort, the same synchronised messaging system can also be applied to email, and even telephone calls and voicemail, which all but eliminates the possibility of missing someone’s attempt to get in touch. Better still, all this can be achieved for nothing – read on to find out how.
Apple iMessage’s ability to weave seamless text messaging through its devices isn’t much use for people with an Android or Blackberry smartphone, or for those who chat online using an instant-messaging (IM) service such as AIM or Yahoo Messenger.
Fortunately, setting up iMessage-like text messaging that works across a number of devices is simple stuff, thanks to an IM program called Trillian.
Trillian is what’s known as a ‘multi-protocol’ IM program, which means it can be used across any number of IM services. So someone with friends who use a mix of AIM, MSN Messenger and Google Chat, for example, doesn’t need to install three different IM programs – Trillian can connect to all three services (and many more) at once.
Trillian is available for Windows PCs and Macs, as well as iOS, Android and Blackberry devices, so it is handy for chatting using whatever device is to hand, and there is even a web browser-based version.
The really clever part, however, is that once a free Trillian account is created (which can also be used as its own IM service), conversations are synchronised to any device with Trillian installed. So, it’s possible to switch between a smartphone and a laptop mid-conversation and not miss a beat – just as with iMessage.
Trillian’s key limitation – when compared to iMessage – is that it can only receive messages from other IM programs (so the smartphone version won’t work over SMS).
Trillian is free to use over Wifi though and its data use over 3G broadband is small enough to make a negligible impact on a mobile data allowance if used instead of SMS. Trillian can run as a background app too, so a smartphone will still pop up an alert when a new message is received.
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