Instant messaging is the new text messaging. It's cheaper (per byte), generally quicker and even comes with extra options like read receipts and statuses so you won't interrupt someone while they're occupied. In fact, instant messaging is so much easier to use that I've considered nixing my comparatively expensive text messaging plan and relying on IM services and email for all text-based communication.
The problem is, there is no universal service. There are hundreds of instant messaging services out there and all of my friends seem to use different clients. Some still use Kik, others use the similar Live Profile. A straggling handful are using the proprietary BBM and iMessage, which is still in beta – it works at its own will and is iOS-only. Then there's Facebook Messenger, which is really just a separate application for the Facebook inbox; it works well and just about everyone is on Facebook, but I've found a lot of them aren't using the dedicated application and are slow to respond to messages. It sometimes takes days for them to get back to me. As Android and Google+ grow at breakneck speeds, more and more friends are beginning to use Google's built-in chat services, too, but they never stay signed in.
However, the answer to our instant messaging woes may soon be solved, and we may be able to drop that text messaging plan once and for all. Earlier today, Samsung announced their upcoming chat platform, ChatOn, which will launch sometime before the year's end. ChatOn is completely cross-platform. Kik, Live Profile and Facebook Messenger can be used on both Android and iOS, but ChatOn aims for a much larger audience: everyone. It touts support for Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Bada “and more.” My guess is that it will support all major mobile platforms (Windows Phone 7, webOS, etc.) in due time. But by “everyone,” Samsung also means feature phone users will be open to the service; the non-smartphone users will get a simplified version of ChatOn that features "simple and easy usage."
ChatOn may not offer read receipts, but it does bear a fresh and crisp UI. It features picture, audio, video and animated picture messages and offers group messaging as well. It also heralds an “Interaction Rank” and the ability to write on friends' profiles, making it more like a social network than just a chat platform. All in all, it seems rather promising, mainly because of how open Samsung is about it. Instead of limiting ChatOn to their primary software platforms, they've gone above and beyond to include iOS and BlackBerry support.
I will admit that I'm somewhat biased toward Google Talk, but that's because I've been using it for years now, but ChatOn seems to tout all of the collaborative highlights from all of the current chat services and bundles them into a single service. Is it the be all and end all of BBM and services of the like? Hardly. But could ChatOn resolve the outlying issues with the numerous existing chat services? Yes, that is, if everybody jumps on the bandwagon.
Quite frankly, I don't care what service people adhere to, I just want everyone to choose one service and stick to it. We all want to drop that pesky text messaging plan – which is way overpriced to begin with – but that can't be done if everyone keeps using different chat services.
Should we all adopt ChatOn when it arrives? Or is there an existing service you think should be divulged instead? Sound off in the comments below!