Ashley and myself have always been on the lookout for the perfect iPhone-to-iPhone messenger app that would let us drop down the number of text messages that we send each month. After all, about 75% of the text messages that we send every month are between each other, and thanks to push notifications on the iPhone I figured a dedicated messenger could potentially save us a lot of money.

We have tried all kinds of messenger applications. For awhile we used apps like BeejiveIM (iTunes) and IM+ (iTunes) because they would just integrate in with our existing Google Talk accounts. This worked out pretty well, but we found that both apps would get “disconnected” from the accounts regardless of whether we had the maximum disconnect time of 7 days. That’s why we moved on to other messenger apps that used their own account systems, and are therefore able to keep you connected at all times.

We had tried a lot of apps, and forced ourselves to use them for at least a week so that we could get a feel for both the user interface and the reliability of the service. Here are the ones we didn’t like:

  • Textie (iTunes – free and in-app purchase to remove ads): This is one of the better ones because the interface is decent, and it was the most reliable out of the bunch. The problem was that we had already set our hearts on the winner that we mention later on, and this just wasn’t good enough to pull us away from it. This does do group conversations.
  • PMessenger (iTunes – paid and free versions): This was one of the most reliable messenger apps, and we could always feel confident that the other person received the message. To aid in the reliability it also offers indicators that tell you whether your message has been read by the recipient already. The interface, however, is not that great. This does do group conversations.
  • TextPlus (iTunes – paid and free versions): This app is largely targeted towards people who want to send text messages to other users’ cellphones, but I wanted to try it as an iPhone-to-iPhone messenger as well. The interface was okay, but it just didn’t have a good enough reliability factor to make it useable. Messages that we would send one another weren’t always delivered, or at least we’d never get the corresponding notification. This does do group conversations though.
  • Ping! (iTunes – paid and free versions): The interface for Ping! was actually pretty good, but this too suffered from random messages not showing up. This does not do group conversations.
  • WhatsApp Messenger (iTunes – paid only): I liked this app because it would show you when the recipient had read the message, and the reliability was really good. At times the interface seemed cluttered though, and not offering a free version meant that I couldn’t have some of my friends download it without convincing them to drop a little money. Sure, it’s not expensive, but I want my friends to have the option of whether they want to buy the app or not. This does not do group conversations.

So what app has won our heart? It’s Hello! Messenger (iTunes – paid and free versions). The interface is gorgeous, and while the reliability was flakey initially I can say that it has been nearly perfect since the last release. Here are some of the features I’d like to highlight:

  • The box where you type your message expands as your message gets longer, just like in the native SMS app.
  • There is an indicator for whether your messages have been read of not.
  • Your account information is retained on their server. That means you could easily pick up a new device, login, and see all of your contacts without needing to add them all over again.
  • You can have group conversations.
  • The available sounds that can be played when you receive a message actually sound good, which is not something a lot of the other apps can boast.
  • There is an indicator to let you know when the other user is typing.

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After using this app for a few weeks both Ashley and I feel that it’s actually nicer than the built-in SMS app in most areas. I’ve also contacted the developer, and he has said that both Blackberry and Android versions should be out by the end of the month… which is rather incredible. That means nearly all of my friends would be able to use this app, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them jump on board. Plus he said a native iPad app will be started once some of their other developments wrap up.

If there was one negative thing I could say about the app it’s that the primary user identification consists of 7 random numbers/letters. That doesn’t bother me too much since you can find friends by name or phone number, but the app also makes it easy to send your ID to your friends via SMS or email. This is a petty complaint, and overall I’d say this is leaps and bounds beyond the other apps.

By using Hello! messenger we’ve been able to drop down from our unlimited text plan ($30 per month on the family plan) to just 200 text messages per month ($5 per phone = $10 per month). That means we save $20 every month thanks to this app! Needless to say we use this app so much that we decided to spend the $1.99 and grab the ad-free version.

Hello! Messenger (iTunes – paid and free versions)