Like email, chatrooms just won’t die. Popularized by the advent of Internet Relay Chat (IRC), hundreds of thousands of users continue to chat with each other using these specialized networks. With mobile phones, chatting has never been easier. These apps will keep you connected even when you’re on the go.
Before you read on, just remember to have a stable Internet connection and be aware of bandwidth usage. If you’re interested in using IRC with a computer instead, check out these Windows 7 IRC clients for a good starting point.
As the name suggests, HoloIRC is a client that’s built on the Holo design guidelines that define the look-and-feel of most Android apps these days. That’s a good thing. Clean lines, no clutter, right amounts of whitespace, and soft color contrast makes HoloIRC easy on the eyes and a breeze to use.
IRC clients aren’t the most sophisticated of programs, but even as it aims to be a minimalistic app, HoloIRC has enough features to differentiate it from the other offerings in the Play Store:
- Can connect directly to a server or to a bouncer.
- Tap on a user’s name for fast nick completion.
- Switch between light and dark theme easily.
- Lots of settings for customization, including notifications and logging.
The best part of HoloIRC is that it’s light on resources, so it’s responsive and performs well. On top of that, it’s open source, regularly updated, works fantastic on tablets and phones, completely free, and doesn’t even have any ads.
RiceIRC is a clean and intuitive IRC app that feels very modern. It has an aesthetic style that’s somewhat unique — there are some influences from both Holo and Metro design principles, but it definitely takes on a look of its own while remaining minimal. That alone makes it intriguing.
In fact, the interface is so intuitive that if there was one single reason to choose RiceIRC over any other app, that would be it. Other features include:
- Actions (e.g., join, part, kick, etc.) can all be accessed through button menus. Action menus include frequently used actions as well as some lesser known ones.
- Each message is distinguished on its own line.
- Swiping is used to switch between channels.
- Multiple server connections can be established.
One downside is the lack of customization. If you like the app as it is, great; if not, you’re out of luck. Also, while RiceIRC is completely free and without ads, it does claim to offer in-app purchases in the form of extensions. There aren’t any extensions yet, but it’ll be interesting to see how that develops in the future.
AndroIRC (Free, $2.90)
AndroIRC was a popular choice when it first came out. but it seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent months. It hasn’t received a proper update in nearly half a year and some users do report issues connecting to some networks. Even so, this app is still pretty good and worth a try.
What can you expect from it? The basic IRC features as well as a few of the features that you’d find on a desktop IRC client:
- Autojoin channels when connecting to a network.
- Automatic Nickserv authentication on relevant networks.
- Properly handles the irc:// link format.
- Notifications and logging.
The one thing that knocks AndroIRC down a few notches? Advertisements. Screen estate is hugely important for an IRC client, especially on a phone. The banner ads can be annoying after a while, doubly true if you use IRC on a daily basis. Ads can be disabled by upgrading to premium.
AndChat (Free, $3.22)
For some reason, AndChat is the IRC app that’s most recommended in casual conversation, at least in my experience. Not that there’s anything wrong with AndChat per se, but there isn’t much to distinguish it either. It’s neither good nor bad. It just is.
Some features you may find useful:
- Multiple connections to multiple networks.
- Highlight support for nicknames.
- Notifications, logging, and chat message history.
- Data backup and encryption.
AndChat’s feature set is fine. The real drawback is the interface. It feels very dated, so navigation can be clunky at times and it isn’t the most beautiful app to look at. There are a healthy number of options that you can tweak, but it isn’t enough to justify the subpar aesthetics.
At least it’s completely free. You can donate $3.22 USD if you want to help fund development, but AndChat hasn’t received a proper update in over a year so it may just be money down the drain.
Which Is Best?
Who knows how long IRC will stick around? It may evolve into something more web-centric, such as group communication with Slack. But for now, IRC seems to be going strong, and these apps will let you participate from the comfort of your own phone or tablet. I personally prefer RiceIRC with a close runner-up in HoloIRC.
Which one do you like best? Are there any good Android IRC clients that I missed? It’s still a niche market, but it’d be great to discover any hidden gems out there. Share with us in the comments below!