Atlassian’s HipChat is in the process of rolling out revised or new native apps across all platforms for it group chat tool, and now it’s introducing HipChat version 2.0 for Android devices. The improved app is the product of a beta testing period that spanned the last few months. HipChat beta tested it through by borrowing a page out of Google Chrome’s book and offering both a developer and a stable channel, but on Android, and intends to continue that strategy.
HipChat for Android 2.0 is the products of feedback from over 4,500 installations of the beta over the past few weeks. It’s designed to take on a more truly native Android user interface, with designs updated to reflect the most recent guidelines for Android apps. Plus, it’s been tested to work optimally even with older versions of Android, including 2.2 and higher.
With version 2.0 there’s a new sliding menu for navigating between rooms and chats, and you can upload photos directly from the Android app, either from your library or from your device’s camera. Creating an experience suited to all devices proved the biggest challenge here, and explains why it made sense to go with a simultaneous beta channel – it widens the field to help compensate for device fragmentation.
“With the Android ecosystem, you definitely have a really wide array of devices, as opposed to iOS where you have only iPhone or iPad, and just a few versions of each,” HipChat mobile developer Doug Keen explained in an interview. “This app is actually compatible all the way back to Android 2.2, and we’ve used a combination of frameworks and features on the device to give the same experience whether you’re on an old phone or a new phone.”
The HipChat beta will continue to operate as a separate channel in the Google Play store, which means that users who want to get access to the latest features and improvements as they’re released can still stay on that channel. For users who prefer a more stable experience, HipChat 2.0 and subsequent, less frequent releases will be the way to go.
iOS is the next target platform for HipChat’s development team. Keen said that the new Android app surpasses the iOS version in terms of look and feel, but that the team aims to even that up with its next big release for Apple’s mobile devices. Both platforms will also see much more frequent updates going forward, he explained.
Recently, HipChat made access to its platform free for teams of five or fewer, including the use of its mobile apps. The company has been working hard on updating its suite of software clients, and the commitment to not stagnate is crucial given the rise of new challengers, including the open source and free (though more demanding of technical expertise) Jabbr.net. Improving the HipChat app, which had a dismal 2.5 star rating, compared to the beta’s 4.5 stars, is a very good step.