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Like email, chatrooms just won’t die. Popularized by the advent of Internet Relay Chat (IRC) How We Talk Online: A History of Online Forums, From Cavemen Days To The Present How We Talk Online: A History of Online Forums, From Cavemen Days To The Present Let’s take a step back and think about the wonders of modern technology for one second. The web has made it possible to participate in near-instant communication on a global scale. Join me as I... Read More , 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 The Top 7 Best Free IRC Clients for Windows 7 The Top 7 Best Free IRC Clients for Windows 7 For most of us, chatrooms might seem like a relic of the past, but they're still around. If you're interested in that sort of thing, you’ll want to look into the IRC protocol. For those... Read More for a good starting point.

HoloIRC (Free)

android-irc-client-holoirc

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.

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RiceIRC (Free)

android-irc-client-riceirc

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)

android-irc-client-androirc

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)

android-irc-client-andchat

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 Slack Makes Group Communication Faster and Easier Slack Makes Group Communication Faster and Easier Group emails can really kill productivity. It's time to put mail clients to rest and use collaboration services like newly launched Slack. Read More . 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!

  1. usman
    March 31, 2016 at 11:41 am

    I tryed rice , no nick list , iwas using turbo irc

  2. Almond
    November 24, 2015 at 5:52 am

    Using Andchat myself and it's got its quirks, but it's not too much of a drain on the CPU and works quite well, mostly. The only issue it has it that it tends to disconnect at odd times and for no apparent reason, e.g. it would stay connected just fine all night long while I'm asleep (an receive all messages etc) but then disconnect the moment II unlock the screen - and it's a bit sensitive when it comes to network connections that vary greatly in connection quality. As long as I avoid it from varying too much (by either using mobile data or staying in a certain radius with WiFi), Andchat is OK.

  3. Emily Moffet
    April 10, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    DCC chat and file sending and receiving are a huge part of IRC and IRC culture. Some of these clients support it, others do not... no mentions though. Sort of like reviewing email clients without saying which support attachments.

    • Yug Shende
      May 3, 2015 at 8:30 am

      A rather crude simile. Don't think here exists an email client that does not support attachment in 2015. As for File sharing. AndroIRC does support it.

  4. Rehan Khan
    July 23, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Photo4tune seems like a good app, came across the same on some blog. Have you used it?

  5. Abhishek R
    June 27, 2014 at 11:28 am

    How are these apps different from Whats app, BBM, LINE etc.

    • Joel L
      June 30, 2014 at 4:01 am

      IRC is a specific kind of chatroom that's platform-independent. There are different networks that you can connect to and each network has its own set of channels (each channel is like a room). These Android apps can connect to these chatrooms, but you can also connect on Windows with a client like mIRC or on Linux with a client like XChat.

  6. likefunbutnot
    June 24, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    One of the biggest problems I've observed with Android chat apps in general is the amount of CPU time they need. Skype, Google Hangouts, IM+, Meebo and the couple IRC clients I've used have been all huge battery hogs. Finding a battery friendly way to chat is probably the most important feature I look for in any sort of chat app.

    • Joel L
      June 25, 2014 at 4:36 am

      Ah, right. Battery usage is very important for apps like these. Have you tried any of the ones listed here? Would like to hear your experience with their battery consumption rates.

  7. Khai
    June 24, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    "Who knows how long IRC will stick around?"

    I've been on and off it now for nearly 20 years... (1995 was roughly my first encounter... I was drunk at lot back then, so not a definite date... )

    • Joel L
      June 25, 2014 at 4:35 am

      It's definitely a resilient form of communication. I guess it helps that there's no central IRC headquarters, so it'll probably be around for another few decades.

    • Kpy
      November 21, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      how long email has been around? I think IRC is one of those basic internet tools that will stick around for a very long time at least in certain geeky circles

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