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Trillian for Android review -- not quite worth your money yet

Trillian logoEarlier this week, Trillian, one of the oldest third-party IM client developers, released its Android app. I've always found Trillian a bit gimicky -- kind of like a 'Super Mega' Windows Live Messenger, with more bells and whistles than I really need, and a bloated, hard-to-navigate UI as a result.

Trillian for Android, I'm sad to say, is no better. Ultimately, it's functional but it feels like the shedding of its beta moniker was more than a little hasty. If that wasn't bad enough, it'll cost you $5 from the Android Market.

Clunky

I've ranted about Android app interfaces before. I can count the number of easy-to-use Android apps on one hand, and Trillian isn't one of them. It wouldn't be so bad if Trillian stood alone in the field of multi-protocol Android IM clients, but unfortunately that's not the case: Trillian has to be compared against the excellent BeejiveIM, an app that stands tall, like a strapping, sleek, blonde-haired Californian surfer. Trillian, by comparison, looks and feels like an ugly, hairy Cthuloid beast. BeejiveIM, in other words, is worth the money. Trillian is not.

Buggy

The main problem is that Trillian for Android is buggy. The most fundamental feature -- adding your various IM accounts -- doesn't really work. You can add an account, but then it doesn't appear until you close the program and open it again. There's also no feedback on whether it successfully logged in or not -- so when it failed to connect to Google Talk, I thought it was a connection issue, or a bug, but it was actually my password. Sometimes it refused to let me delete an account, too.

Sending camera photos also doesn't work. Well, it does, but you can only send photos that were on your phone at boot time. If you try to send a new photo, Trillian won't recognize any new files until you reboot your phone. Awesome.

Some bits of Trillian work just fine, though!

Features

The best feature of Trillian for Android is reserved for those that also use it on the desktop: the app synchronizes your friend and group lists from the cloud, which is quite handy. In fact, if you're one of the many Trillian desktop users and you really need to stay connected to 5+ IM networks at the same time, this app will be right up your alley. If you've never used Trillian before, though, the app has questionable value. Still, here are its other neat features -- perhaps one will catch your eye.
  • Highly configurable -- Trillian has always been the 'enthusiast' IM client, mostly because of its extensive configurability. You can set a ton of notification methods (though notifications themselves seem a bit slow); change grouping and sorting of buddy lists; and like the desktop client, you can even set an 'auto away' timer and message.
  • Suspend mode -- Rather than signing off, Trillian for Android lets you 'suspend' communications. This seemingly keeps you online as far as the server is concerned, but the client on your phone is turned off, thus conserving power and/or bandwidth. People can still send you messages, and you receive them when you resume your session -- or you can have the messages emailed to you instead, which is cool.
  • Search -- You can search every single one of your contacts 'in real time'; i.e. results pop up as you type. It searches by email address and nickname, which makes it very handy for finding a contact who you've forgotten the name of...
  • Connect to lots and lots of different networks -- Trillian for Android lets you log into AIM, Facebook, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber/XMPP networks, Windows Live Messenger, MySpaceIM and Yahoo. If you have ever used all of these networks at the same time, please leave a comment; I'd like to shake your hand.

Conclusion

Trillian, in its current form, isn't worth the $5 that it will cost you on the Android Market. Fortunately, you can download it for free [APK], from the developers themselves (scan the QR code!) Apparently the free version won't be updated, though; so you'll either have to live with a buggy, free version, or cough up the $5 and hope that the bugs are fixed soon.

Tags: android, apps, IM, instant messaging, instant messenger, InstantMessaging, InstantMessenger, multi-protocol, review, reviews, trillian

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