The "floating notification" style of app seems to be popular with a small but enthusiastic subset of users. Now those users have at least one more alternative, this time encompassing a wide range of texting and chatting apps. Meet Snowball, designed by a team that's being directly funded by a prospective investment from Google Ventures, among others. The idea behind the app is to create a unified messaging inbox that floats above the rest of Android.
Snowball lives in a little white slide-out circle, almost entirely hidden on the side of your screen. When one of the compatible chat apps gets a new notification, the circle pops out and the tiny abominable snowman mascot waives at you, very much like Facebook's Chat Heads feature.
WhatsApp was surprisingly quick off the draw after the release of Android Wear, updating its sideloaded beta app with Wear support early this month. Now the 2.11.362 update is available on the general play store release, so even users who don't want to use the beta (or who don't know about it) can get richer WhatsApp chat notifications on their wrists. Huzzah!
The update to the main app includes most of the standard Wear messaging stuff: full long message viewing, nested/stacked messages with sliding navigation between them, and the usual reply via voice option. Incoming messages can be dismissed with a swipe, just like pretty much all Android Wear notifications.
If Facebook's 19 billion dollar deal to buy WhatsApp didn't convince you that messaging apps are big business, then... well, this probably won't convince you either, but you'll be even more wrong. Tango Messenger, a solid entry in the crowded text chat market, has been given a huge investment by a group of companies including China's Alibaba.com. Alibaba invested a whopping $215 million, with an extra $65 million coming from previous Tango investors. The total capital raised to date for Tango is $367 million.
Alibaba is sort of the Chinese equivalent of Amazon. The company started as a business-to-business marketplace, but has since expanded into just about every aspect of consumer shopping and online services, including purchasing what was left of the Chinese arm of Yahoo.
Trillian has been around for quite a long time. This isn't a hip teen's chat client - it's their father's. No seriously, many of the people who used this IM client back when it was fresh are old enough to have children now. Trillian came to fame at a time when consolidating chat clients into one piece of software was almost a necessity on consumer desktops, as running several of the official messengers at once was such a memory hog.
Trillian sits next to iPods with click wheels and Myspace as groundbreaking products that now live on in the same vein as child stars.
Google Hangouts hasn't had any major changes since its debut earlier this summer, but the latest version of the app adds some interesting tweaks. Google's new, annoying habit of staged rollouts means that a lot of people don't' have access to the updated app, even though it started becoming available on the 23rd. The indefatigable Ron Amadeo had a look inside, and found it to be a housecleaning update, with a lot of tightened code and only a few new features.
The user interface has been given a few tweaks, most notably a slightly updated animation for the emoji insert and bigger, better YouTube thumbnails.
Chat clients limited to one-on-one conversation are going the way of the dodo. We've got numerous options for group messaging including: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Google+ Messenger, Live Messenger, and we're even pretty sure Babel (or whatever it will be called) will join the list. Today, popular cross-platform chat app, Tango, steps up to match its competitors.
The additions to the interface are very straightforward. You can pick multiple people from your contact list to start a conversation and at any time add new people or leave the chat altogether from the participants screen. To help organize conversations, groups can be given custom names and the changes appear for everybody.
Finally! Since the dawn of floating apps (which was like, what, three months ago?) this is the one that I've hoped for: a chat client! Brought to us by the Tablified dev team, LilyPad HD finally makes it possible to rid yourself of the full-screen chat client on your tablet for something far more practical.
Like other floating apps, LilyPad offers basic features needed for an always-on-top app, like quick-hide mode, resizable windows, and even tabs for chatting with multiple people without having a slew of small windows taking over the entire screen.
At the current time, the app costs $1.49 and only has support for Google Talk.