Mumbai and Singapore based Antarix Networks, founded by former ITFinity exec Nagesh Rao, which had earlier launched popular social networking app Socially, now also offers Imsy, an Instant Messaging app that allows users to send text and multimedia messages to each other, and also receive content alerts in the form of push messages from different services via 3rd party messaging bots. The app is available for all major mobile platforms including iOS, android, Windows Phone 7, Symbian, Nokia Series 40(Java), in addition to BlackBerry (in private Beta).
We tried using on the app on an iPhone, a Nokia Belle phone (Nokia 603) and a Windows Phone. Similar to IM apps like WhatsApp, WeChat and others, Imsy also requires the user to register and verify his mobile number, in order to send and receive messages. After verification, the user can also upload a profile picture, and the app scans the mobile’s address book to check who’s already registered on Imsy, listing those contacts at the top in the app’s contacts list. Users who’re not on Imsy can be sent invites via SMS, however, the app does not support sending of normal text messages, unlike Jaxtr and the newly launched Hike apps, although it allows users to send an invite via SMS.
While the app’s interface is pretty simple, and easy to use, it did crash a couple of times on our iPhone 4. It allows users to send text messages and location info, in addition to text messages. What’s interesting is that it can search for pictures related to the text entered by the user on the fly, so that he can select and send a suitable picture with the message. The app does not support voice or video messages. It does support group messaging. It also offers indicators for sent and delivered messages, and indicates when the other user is keying-in a message, in the chat window. The iPhone and Windows Phone versions do not offer emoticons (the iPhone has a built-in Emoji keyboard, though). we were able to send and receive messages in the background, without any hitch.
Third party apps: Imsy also offers its messenger API to third party developers, who can set-up free or paid content services on the platform, with support for multimedia and location information. the user can simply goto the Bots tab and turn-on the service from which he wants to receive alerts. At the time of writing this post, Imsy offers content services such as cricket scores from Cricbuzz, football updates from Goal.com, news from NDTV and BBC, Bollywood news from Bollywood Hungama, Tech news updates from Techcrunch, comic strips from Dilbert, Calvin & Hobbes, and GoComics, in addition to apps to update Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn status, among others. The apps can be configured within their respective chat windows, but we found that most apps did not have additional configuration settings, and were less interactive.
In the wake of the SMS spam regulations, this might turn out to be an interesting way for publishers to reach out to users and monetize the platform at a later stage. But then unlike SMS, the service can’t be used without mobile data connectivity. Also, in addition to being restricted to Imsy users, we wonder how many would actually pay for information, since it’s already available on the internet, and smartphone users even get push-notifications. We wonder how Imsy is monetising the service, since there were no ads. Note that instant messaging and VoIP company Nimbuzz had also opened up its Messenger API and launched a Chat Buddy Developer Program, on the same lines. Group messaging company SMS GupShup also had plans to launch a new data-based app called ‘GupShup Group Messenger’, enabling group chat between its users and non-Gupshup users, as well as support community updates from the groups they have subscribed to. SMS GupShup had opened up its API for SMS based services, so we feel that it could also emulate the same model in its data app.
In terms of their sheer number, Indian users have a large number of peer to peer instant messaging apps to choose from. Imsy’s USP is its support for a large number of mobile platforms, but it would all depend on the number of users that embrace the app and on their extended social circle, for the app to gain traction. We support the stand that WhatsApp’s taken on advertising in messaging apps, and feel that developers need other avenues for monetization. Opening the platform to third party developers is an interesting approach, but is still at a nascent stage.