Nimbuzz: Voice, Social Networking and Instant Messaging in One

There are many apps available that try to bring together various communication protocols. I’m always interested in programs that manage multiple services, since for me, Adium on the Mac (s aapl) and its PC (s msft) relative, Pidgin, are indispensable for dealing with my eight (!) IM accounts.

After my recent post about the betas I use, I was introduced to Nimbuzz, an IM program that is now offering voice services in competition with Skype and Gizmo5 (which was recently purchased by Google).

The origins of Nimbuzz are in Europe. It claims a 20 percent market share in several European countries, and it’s popular in the Middle East. The company says that it has 12 million users, and is adding 40,000 users per day — not bad for a service that’s less than two years old. Nimbuzz is less well known in North America, but that may soon change.

Nimbuzz Mobile

Nimbuzz focuses much of its effort on developing mobile clients for a wide variety of mobile phones, including the iPhone/iPod touch, Android systems, and BlackBerry (s rimm) (a native BlackBerry app is new today). Nimbuzz clients are available in several languages.

The Nimbuzz Mobile client supports the IM services one would expect (Windows Live/MSN, Yahoo (s yhoo), Google Talk (s goog), AIM, ICQ); social networking chat (Facebook, MySpace); plus some services not often seen in North America, but which are popular elsewhere (the VZ Networks, Gadu-Gadu, Hyves, Giovani).

The client also allows you to make VoIP calls using any SIP account (like Gizmo5), Skype, or its own NimbuzzOut service. Nimbuzz claims that its international calling rates are cheaper than Skype’s.

I found the Nimbuzz mobile client for iPhone/iPod touch to be attractive and easy to use. Both the IM and voice functions work well. I have some minor grumbles, which I’m told will be remedied in upcoming versions.

  • In order to make voice calls, the phone number to be dialed must be entered into your device’s address book in full international format — like +1 (555) 555-1212. However, one can’t edit this data directly from Nimbuzz.
  • The client supports only one account per service, so if you have, say, two Google Talk accounts, you must pick one.
  • Nimbuzz does not yet support GTalk for Google Apps accounts.
  • I was recently required to change my GTalk password due to “suspicious activity,” but Nimbuzz for iPhone doesn’t seem to have a way to change service passwords. I had to delete the GTalk account in the client, then re-create it.

Nimbuzz for Mac

The developers at Nimbuzz say that they are “big Apple fans,” and it shows. The Nimbuzz Mac client comes close to the elegance of Adium. I hope the program will maintain its Mac-friendly design as it matures. The Windows version looks good, too, although I haven’t tested it.

The desktop client has most of the features and limitations of the mobile version, although it doesn’t yet support voice calling or Skype chat. It also doesn’t share data with the mobile version, which would be nice, so as to avoid having to input account data more than once. And I would have liked to have seen integration with the Mac Address Book app.

Nimbuzz also offers a web version, which isn’t as full-featured as some other web-based IM services, such as Meebo.

Nimbuzz doesn’t work with Twitter, although I think that’s a good thing. Twitter isn’t a messaging service, it’s a microblogging service, and I have found that Twitter functions in IM clients don’t work very well.

I’m very encouraged by the development of Nimbuzz so far. The company tells me that, instead of adding features willy-nilly, they have chosen to “do it right.”I can certainly agree with that in principle, although given the speed with which other apps are being created and updated, let’s hope that Nimbuzz can keep pace.

Have you tried the new Nimbuzz BlackBerry client? Let us know what you think of it below.