Pinger Phone is a free and easy-to-use iPhone application that lets you stay updated with your Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter friends. More important, it lets you chat with your buddies on AIM, Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo accounts using a single interface. We were very pleased with this app's performance overall, especially considering it's free; we just wish there were a few features that we could turn off.
After installing Pinger Phone from the Apple App Store, you'll be prompted to enter your cell phone number and to create a unique user PIN. The next screen will ask you to enter your username and password for any of the social networks or messaging clients you'd like to use. Once you've finished these steps, Pinger Phone will launch.
Pinger Phone automatically downloads all of your friend's recent Twitter tweets or Facebook status messages, and places them next to a stamp-size photo of each buddy's profile picture (a small icon identifies the social network used for the update). We love the clean and easy-to-use interface, which let us scroll through our contacts' updates with a quick swipe of our finger. After every five updates, Pinger Phone inserts a small and nonintrusive advertisement.
Next to each contact's status is a Pinger icon, called the Pinger Phone Menu, that you can click to interact with your friends. You can call them directly, e-mail, text, send a Facebook or MySpace message to, or IM them if they're available. Any friends that are signed into an IM client will have a small green dot next to them indicating they're online.
If your friend's phone number is already on your phone, Pinger Phone will pull it so that you can call him or her directly from the application. The app doesn't automatically create new phone contacts, but you can create them with the + button in the Contacts view.
With this amount of functionality, Pinger Phone can pretty much replace your actual phone application on the iPhone. It has your entire contact list, all your friends' status updates, and a fully functional dialer, and you can view your IM contacts or create a Favorite contacts list.
We like that the chat application let us turn the phone sideways to type on the larger landscape-size keyboard, but noticed that it froze once during our testing until we restarted the application.
Room for Improvement
Pinger Phone could afford some tweaks. At boot, it doesn't recognize duplicate updates; one friend had his Twitter feed synced with Facebook, so Pinger Phone listed the same update twice. Thankfully you can turn this off by clicking "link to contact." If you minimize Pinger Phone, you can still receive messages from friends on your buddy lists, but they come through as text messages. This can get very frustrating if several people are typing a lot while you've left your phone idle. To turn it off, open the Options section.
Each text has a link that automatically launches Pinger Phone and brings up the message inside the Pinger Phone client. We wish we could turn this feature off altogether, since we felt bombarded by texts quite frequently. We also found it a bit strange that, while we could read and interact with our friends, we weren't able to update our own Facebook or Twitter status using Pinger Phone. That's an option that should have been included from the get-go.
If you're constantly opening and closing your Twitter, Facebook, or IM client applications just to stay in touch with your friends, you'll appreciate being able to keep track of and in contact with everyone easily using Pinger Phone. On the other hand, you won't be able to keep anyone updated on what you're actually doing. We also wish that we could upload pictures directly from the client, or turn off specific features. Still, as a free app, Pinger Phone is certainly worth checking out.