Last week, Nokia Beta Labs released a very cool new application called Nokia Chat. As you might guess, Nokia Chat is an IM application, but that just starts to scratch the surface as there are also additional layers of presence and location. Unlike some apps you might have tried like Jaiku or twitter, Nokia Chat is about one to one communication and does not have a public room in which everyone’s discussions pass by.
Nokia Chat is Jabber based and to use it touch need to sign up or in using your Ovi sign-in. Your handle is then firstname.lastname@example.org and you can also add this account to your desktop IM client using chat.ovi.com as the server.
In addition to chatting with your friends and colleagues you can share locations as well using the GPS on your device. This is something you are fully in control of though, so rest assured that your actual location is not revealed unless you to choose to share. Nokia Chat integrates with the system landmarks and uses the familiar (or actual if you prefer) name in you presence line. You get to send you own location which provides a link to you on the map and is fully navigable from within your mapping app so you can meet up if you like – or simply just see where someone is hanging out. What’s nice about landmarks is that you can use saved locations from both Google Maps or Nokia Maps. When you open a location link, it goes to Nokia Maps …
Nokia has integrated Chat into the address book though it works as a tab within the application. On the N95 you move the rocker to the right and then switch into chat mode. On the E71, the tab is accessed by moving to the left, which gets you into the tab ui at the top of the screen. When chat is running it is also actually using contacts and I’ve found you need to keep both open in order to stay actively connected.
The GPS functions by searching on a user defined interval. 20 minutes is the default and that seems to offer a nice balance between actively sharing and managing battery life. It’s hard to tell exactly how long the connection is maintained, but from an offline state to connected your location can be shared within a matter of moments (less than 30 seconds including application start up) thanks to the use of landmarks as reference points and the speed of AGPS.
Nokia Chat has become my preferred mobile IM app. I would love to see support for additional IM services which would let this work beyond just Nokia handset owners. You can add Gtalk and other jabber service buddies, but connecting with AIM, MSN and Yahoo contacts would make it complete – even if those people could never take advantage of the Nokia specific features. I have found the application to be very lightweight and notifications for chats are easy to manage and not intrusive.