I’ve seen a lot of posts in the past few days regarding the iPhone messaging app Ping! that was released into the iPhone App Store a few days ago. It’s free for the time being, but looks like it may end up costing money in the long run, which I feel will be it’s downfall if it’s trying to be the “BBM (Blackberry Messenger) for the iPhone.
The app is basically just messaging between iPhones using the data connection. It does not use SMS to communicate and therefore it will not waste your text messages if you don’t have an unlimited plan. So when you stat up the application it asks you to create a Ping ID, which is basically just the username you want to be known as on the network. I’m assuming it then associates your specific phone with this ID on the servers end so that your messages end up with you. There’s no password requirement or anything, just the Ping ID. So after you create an ID it dumps you into a screen that is basically the heart of the app. From here you can change a few settings, invite people to Ping! via email or send a message to someone.
There are a few problems that I have already found with the app. For one, there is no buddy list screen that would allow you to click on names to send messages. In order to send messages you have to type in the persons Ping ID in the “To:” field. And even after you link an address book contact to a Ping ID, you can’t just type in that persons name, you still need to use the Ping ID, which is dumb because I’m not going to be able to remember everyone’s Ping ID. Also you cannot send pictures through the service which I am going to assume will probably come with an update, but hopefully we don’t have to wait 2 years like we had to with MMS with AT&T.
The other thing is that the service depends on the Push Notifications on the iPhone, meaning you don’t need to have the app open for it to receive messages however just in testing for the past 20 minutes I have not been receiving any messages from a few co-workers and there was a case where I got a message and could see it in the Push Notification window, but when I went to the actual app, it wasn’t there and I was stuck with a “1” badge over the Ping! icon.
So it seems like this could be a good idea, but right now it’s not polished enough to be reliable. And if it really wants to be like BBM they should incorporate things like “Message Sent”, “Message Delivered” and “Message Read” notifications so that we know our messages made it to the recipient, because currently I have no clue if anyone got them because it seems very finicky. It would also be cool to know if the other person is typing a message, but I’m not sure if that sort of direct connection would be possible with the way the iPhone works on the network. So overall I’m not too impressed right now and like I said above, if they make you pay for this app in the future, there is no way it is going to be the BBM of the iPhone since people aren’t going to pay for an app like this. Most people have unlimited texts anyways so I can see a lot of people not even having a use for this in the first place. So my advice is to keep it free, maybe support it with ads or something and also work on the reliability and the feature set ASAP. I have better luck texting people through AIM to save on text messages than I feel I’ll have with this app in it’s current state.
Update: I’ve noticed a lot of people ending up here after searching for how to change their Ping ID in the app.
Well I have some bad news, you can’t yet so choose wisely the first time. Ping! 1.1 just made it to the App Store and you can now unregister a Ping ID and make a new one.
Update 2 (10/1/09): Looks like Ping! 1.1 has been submitted to Apple for approval. The change log mentions that in this version you will be able to unregister your Ping ID and change it, the new version will also fix the missing icon in the notifications settings menu as well as fix some issues that were occurring in landscape mode. Nothing else is being added in 1.1, however the developer says he’s already working on 1.2.
Update 3 (10/6/09): A lot of people have been ending up here by searching for things related to why Ping isn’t working or why they aren’t receiving messages from people. First of all make sure you are on using 3.0 software or higher. Second of all if you are not on AT&T (or an officially supported carrier elsewhere in the world) you are going to have problems, period. If you are getting the connecting error where the app sits there and says it’s trying to connect, but never does, then you are most likely on an unsupported network and need to download Push Fix from Cydia (repo: cydia.iphoneil.net). This will enable your phone to connect to the network and send Ping messages, but a lot of people are still complaining that they cannot receive messages from people and I can’t help you with that one. So like I said, if you have an unlocked phone on an unsupported carrier you shouldn’t expect things to work smoothly, and why would they, you’re not using the phone as it’s intended. Now for those who have jailbroken the phone and not unlocked, you shouldn’t have any problems, and yes there is a difference between jailbreaking and unlocking. Jailbreaking just allows the phone to run unsigned apps, basically giving you full access to the file system. Unlocking removes the carrier restriction and allows you to use the phone on any network. I have had absolutely no problems with Ping on AT&T using a Jailbroken iPhone 3GS running 3.0. All my messages arrive quickly and are very reliable. The only small issue I have is double messages sometimes coming through, but it’s not a big deal as long as the messages make it.
So why are so many of you having problems with this app?
Update (11/26/09): Just letting everyone know, if you haven’t seen already, that the update to Ping! is now available in the App store. This update adds an address book/buddy list thing, which is alright. I would have much rather the address book names show up in the Ping address book instead of just the ping names, what’s the point of attaching a Ping! ID to a name in the phone’s address book if it’s not going to utilize that. Also, I want to point out that I’m a little disappointed in the developers addition of picture messaging. He added picture messaging, but it’s an in-app purchase that you have to pay another .99 cents for. I think that’s absolutely ridiculous. I understand that sending pictures takes a little more bandwidth on the server side, but come on, you’re already charging for the app itself. I would have rather you make the app completely free and then charge for picture messages, but to charge for both just seems greedy. I for one will not be purchasing the picture add-on.