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iPhone to get Apple IM client?

Apple files patent for instant-messaging tool

An Apple instant-messaging (IM) app for the iPhone could be nearing completion, according to a recent patent filing in the US.

The filing is titled 'Portable Electronic Device for Instant Messaging ', and covers methods for sending, receiving, and viewing ongoing conversations. The proposed interface is similar to Apple's current interface for SMS.

Built-in support for IM has been missing from the iPhone, to the dismay of many users. At the recent launch of the iPhone SDK, AOL demonstrated an AOL Instant Messenger client, but it isn't allowed to run in the background, which normal IM applications rely on.

Apple iPhone review

Support for IM is quickly becoming a must on mobile phones. Users want the same thing on their mobile phone as they have on their computers including IM, according to Leif-Olof Wallin, research vice president at Gartner.

"It will be a blockbuster in two, three years," said Wallin.

But instant messaging is also a threat to the massive amounts mobile carriers make from SMS messaging, which the iPhone currently supports.

"They can charge much more for SMS compared to IM," said Wallin.

Pressure from its carrier partners is a possible explanation for why Apple has taken a hands-off approach to a feature many users want, according to Wallin.

"At the same time it can't afford to be left behind" he said.

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