Saturday, August 12

OMA IMPS (Or: How To Get MSN Messenger To Run Natively On Your Phone) Click for more info

Those of you with a modern Sony Ericsson, Motorola or Nokia phone may have found a reference or two to some kind of built in presence or IM client. On my K800i it's referred to as "My Friends" while the N70 was simply refers to it as "IM". These are actually clients for the Open Mobile Alliance's Instant Messaging and Presence Serivce, a kind of open standard mobile version of WLM or Yahoo Messenger.

Now, technically, servers for thee services should be supplied by our network providers. But since those in the UK are pretty much crap (and presumably want to protect their other revenue streams) it wasn't going to happen at any time soon. However, since IMPS can be run over HTTP (ie via regular WAP), it was only a matter of time before third parties filled this gap. Smart VAS is one such provider. This one is unique, however, in that it also acts as a bridge to your MSN list.

Depending on your circumstances it may be well worth doing. Unlike the Java MSN clients I've seen, on my K800i you end up with a background process that "pings" you every time you receive a message. You can also talk to multiple contacts (including groups), especially those that may not be accessible any other way. Finally, it's much cheaper than SMS (especially with international contacts). If you can access the web via your phone then you should be able to use any IMPS server too.

The instructions are on the site and pretty straightforward. There are a few things I'd note though:

  • IMPS (or perhaps Smart VAS) only supports 30 contacts. You can pick which ones get passed to your phone via the website.
  • You have to provide your MSN log in details (including password) to Smart VAS, a third party.
  • The client uses the existing data connection on your phone and so will be charged in the same way as your web access is. Although cheaper than SMS, having a continuous IM session can add up to a hefty bill. As an example, Three charge £2 per MB, and a brief three message chat session used up around 10k of data (so around 2p).
To get around the first two issues above, I'd suggest that you create a special "disposable" MSN account (perhaps by suffixing mobile to your existing one) with a new password. This way you don't have to worry about security (since you'll only be using the account for mobile messaging) and can add the fewer exclusive contacts you'd want rather than all those that you have on your desktop.

So anyway yes, I've signed up and will now be connected to MSN even more than I usually am. Hmm. Wait a sec. That can't be good...