Adium and the iPhone

Today, Apple released the iPhone SDK. And, as we expected, we’re already being asked whether we intend to write a version of Adium for the iPhone.

The short answer is “yes, but…”.

Developing for the iPhone is similar in many respects to development for Mac OS X. Some of the same frameworks, such as Core Audio, are present. But a lot of them aren’t. For example:

  • QuickTime (which we use to play sounds) is missing entirely. There’s a new Core Audio API to play sounds, but it’s Leopard-only, and we don’t know whether it’s available on the iPhone.
  • The Application Kit (on which our interface is built) is replaced with UIKit.
  • The iPhone probably does not have Apple Events nor Open Scripting Architecture. In other words, no AppleScript.
  • Animation works a bit differently, and is dramatically different from how animation currently works in Adium on Mac OS X.

The hardware poses challenges as well. The iPhone has less memory than Adium tends to use, and has a significantly slower processor (and only one of them). Also, maintaining a network connection over WiFi uses a significant amount of battery, which could pose a problem for long-term use.

So porting Adium to the iPhone will certainly be a lot of work. Large portions, if not almost everything, will need to be completely rewritten or scrapped. Other parts will survive, but undergo extensive changes. This is a lot of work.

Currently, Adium’s base system requirement is Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4). Some of the iPhone’s features, such as Core Animation, were introduced in Leopard (10.5). Therefore, it’s likely that we won’t start work on Adium for iPhone until sometime after Adium for Mac requires Leopard.

Also, keep in mind that we’ll want to release that version of Adium for Mac and have it proven by users (that means you) before we go applying that knowledge to Adium for the iPhone. You wouldn’t want us to port an unstable version, would you? ☺

So, in summary: We want to do it, but it will be a lot of work. We want to put it off for a little bit so that it can be done with less effort and won’t interfere with other development priorities. We don’t know how long we’ll put it off and we don’t know how long it will take once we start.


  1. I understand the reasoning, but…man, what a bummer.

    I moved to the Mac after over 15yrs on Windows, and Adium might be my favorite app of all time on any platform. I was SO hoping for this on the iPhone, more than any other app.

    I guess I can wait (since I have no choice :), but again…man, what a bummer.

  2. How about making “iPhone Port” a Summer of Code 2008 project?

    To address the points you made:
    * Actually I don’t think that missing sounds is a dealbreaker.
    * From what I’ve read about UIKit, it’s almost the same as AppKit.
    * I don’t think that the majority of Adium On iPhone lovers demand all bells and whistles (like fluid animation and scripting)

  3. “…There’s a new Core Audio API to play sounds, but it’s Leopard-only…”

    Im confused, I thought the iPhone had OpenAL.

  4. I think nobody expects Adium Touch to be the same as Adium on the Mac… so yes, it would be a lot of work! But I don’t see why the lack of AppleScript would be a problem on an iPhone… 😉
    In my opinion, the biggest inconvenience is that since only one app can be running at a time, it won’t be possible to have Adium running in the background for IM…

  5. Since Adium is open-source, there’s pretty much nothing to stop someone else taking the initiative and creating a port of Adium to the iPhone.

  6. John Gruber grabbed this snippet off the iPhone HIG earlier today. What would this mean for a possible Adium port?

    “Only one iPhone application can run at a time, and third-party applications never run in the background. This means that when users switch to another application, answer the phone, or check their email, the application they were using quits. It’s important to make sure that users do not experience any negative effects because of this reality. In other words, users should not feel that leaving your iPhone application and returning to it later is any more difficult than switching among applications on a computer.”

  7. I agree. With it being open-source, someone may already be playing with the code and getting a basic client running.

  8. I would be very interested in starting a ‘side project’ (not necessarily a fork, per se) to move Adium to the iphone. This would mean, quite literally, stripping everything and starting from scratch for many things, bearing in mind the limitations of the phone such as limited memory and a slower processor.
    I’ve thought about doing a micro version of Adium for a while now (basically just the core, none of the bells and whistles… just straightforward vanilla IM-ing) but it would be a huge undertaking and would require a substantial effort… I figure if a group of competent coders can get started on this right away it will make it easier / quicker to get it into the real Adium project.
    What does everybody think?

  9. Actually, it won’t be happening at all, because third-party apps on the iPhone will not be allowed to run in the background. Which is a complete pain in the ass. It means that AIM client we saw at the event is pretty much useless.

  10. Probably the Apollo guys will

  11. I can only see someone porting Adium to a jailbroken iPhone since ….Omg Apps won’t run in the background!

    Apple your really making me mad!
    24 hours to watch a show.
    HD movies only on aTv only
    iPhone apps not allow to run in BG
    iPhone still 2G
    No replaceable batteries for Air


  12. Oh never mind, I’ve been beat already but I’ll just post my disbelief…I cannot believe you can only have one app running at a time and then it quits if a call comes in or you need to switch to something else.

  13. adium for the iphone would kick ass, but i’m glad to hear that it won’t interfere with adium 2.0

  14. By the way, the other issue is that the NDA prevents us from releasing an Adium for iPhone. We could write it, but we’d have to keep it to ourselves. Our Adium for iPhone page has more details, along with a more up-to-date version of the text of this post.

  15. It’s been reported that although Apple says that apps cannot run in the background, you CAN (with a view hooks) run applications in the background. However, getting it to pass Apple’s approval process will be the challenge.

  16. Just start over, it shouldn’t take long to get it up and running considering full-fledged games were developed in 2 weeks. People don’t need Adium to have all the features in the iPhone version, just a good multi network app. Screw porting, start from the ground up.

  17. Yeah but those developers has all day and were not trying to develop the desktop spore and the crappy cartoon version for iPhone, plus they weren’t full games just examples, not bug tested etc…

  18. Adium on the iPhone or iPod touch would be awesome! Even without the extra bells and whistles of soundsets and Applescript, I’d use it regularly.

    Go for it!

  19. […] all the suggestions here, I think this one will be fulfilled quickest. The guys at Adium have already posted about their plans much earlier in the year, and many of their issues were resolved with final SDK. […]

  20. any updates on the iphone adium app?

  21. […] it will take a lot of time before one of these pops up. The guys at Adium have already written a blog post about porting Adium to the iPhone, and many of their previous concerns were resolved with the […]

  22. Any update here? It’d be great to hear if there is ANY progress on Adium for iPhone or whether we should be investigating other options. I’m happy that there’s an official AIM app for iPhone, but I really need a Google Talk app, and so far Google has only officially made a web app available which sucks since it obviously only works when you have the web browser open as the front-most program.

  23. Glad to hear you guys are waiting and thinking about how to do it right. Wait until the notification manager is out. Give us a quality app – like you always do.
    I am really looking forward to it, and will hone up my skills and try and contribute.
    Thank you dev team!

  24. Even a lobotomized version of Adium would be 10,000 times better than the AIM application on the iPhone. And there’s no Yahoo messenger app either. I’m sure many iPhone owners would be happy to pony up a few bucks for an iPhone version of Adium. We’ll be here waiting when you’re ready to roll with it. 🙂

  25. You have no idea the demand for Adium in the iPhone, with over 7 million iPhones out there (6m 2G and 1m 3G) and still no IM app (only AIM) people are urging for a good IM with all the popular networks and Aidum could take advantage of first to market and really take advantage of this.

  26. […] I see what they mean now. All my electronic communication with the exception of IM – although that could change – is with me everywhere, as is my music, my calendars, and all my contact information. Oh, and a […]

  27. One app at a time – yes, but also automatic switching. When I’m solving a Sudoku puzzle and a call comes in, Sudoku disappears, and the phone pops up. But as soon as I terminate the call, it pops right back again and I can pick up where I left off.
    My .02: When I’m IM-ing, that’s all I’m doing, so I, for one, don’t need it to run in the background. Send me an SMS telling me to go to chat – that would work fine for me.
    BTW – I agree with several posts – Adium is definitely a cut above.

  28. I just wanted to encourage you to go for it. And if I were you I would charge something for it, even if only a buck. I know I would be willing to pay for the iPhone version. It will sell very well imo. You’ve earned it!

  29. Yeah, just wanted to agree with howlongtoretire: Willing to pay some bucks for it for the iPhone, indeed!

    As a long-time user of Adium, I can only give you the most warm thanks for *the* must-have messenger app for any platform and having it for the iPhone will surely be marvellous. Make it the must-have app for the iPhone, and you could earn quite a few bucks… 😉

  30. Rather than wait for a complete product and charge for it, you should come up with a quick iPhone app that will allow people to contribute to the future development of iPhone Adium 1.0. Someone could purchase the App knowing the proceeds will go towards development of the iPhone specific version. This would afford the developers with some motivation and time incentive to start porting/rewriting. The app doesn’t need to do much, maybe display the Adium duck and have a link that takes you to to the Adium homepage. Have a couple versions, priced at $0.99, $4.99, $9.99, etc for people wishing to donate to the cause.

    Another idea would be to release a free app that simply links to your paypal donation page, but allow people to specifically say they are donating to support iPhone development. The bottom line is that you’ve gotta get an App on the App store sooner rather than later, even if it’s just a placeholder.

  31. You really should release Adium for iPhone soon. I am not the only one that would be willing to pay 4.99 for it. In the meantime, we are stuck with these cheap instant-messaging apps that don’t even work.

  32. I would be willing to port Adium to iPhone :-). It’s an interesting project.

    Any Adium developers could give me an input on this ?
    Am I allowed, or where should I start ? 🙂

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