Fulfilling a feature available previously with jailbreak applications, AOL is offering a free instant messaging client, available through the AppStore, for the iPhone. In our brief testing, the client was a snap to configure, and worked well, but exhibited a few freezes.
When the AIM Mobile application is first launched, you are presented with options to use either the AOL instant messaging service or MobileMe. Once you've made your selection, however, we couldn't find an easy way to go back and configure another account.
Buddy lists are displayed with icons, status messages, and the typical blue iPhone interface arrow, which allows you to initiate a chat with a buddy or add a buddy to your favorites. The blue icon doesn't, however, allow you to access an active chat with said buddy. For that, you'll need to tap on the "IMs" button at the bottom of the screen.
The AIM application adds a preference pane to the "Settings" application, allowing you to change your screenname and password and control whether or not your account signs off when the AIM program is exited. If the option to sign off is turned off, IMs will continue to stream in while you work in other applications, and be displayed in the "Active IMs" window.
Tapping the "My Info" button allows you to set your Avaialble/Away status, as well as establish a status message. There's also a neat feature embedded here: you can tap on your buddy icon to bring up an option to either take a photo with the iPhone's built-in camera and use it as your buddy icon, or choose an existing photo from your iPhone's library and use it similarly.
As aforementioned, we experienced a few freezes in perfunctory use of AIM. If you experience such a freeze, hold the iPhone's Home button down for several seconds to force-quit the app.