About a month ago, we wrote about some of the best Skype alternatives out there for download or purchase. And given that there are a lot of alternatives available, it’s not entirely surprising that we missed one. In fact, we missed a pretty good one. imo may not be a household name just yet, but it may well be a rising star.
Presently, imo is only available for iPhone and Android, but it’s a cinch to install this up and coming app on your PC or your Mac. Below, we’ll tell you how to do just that, as well as some reasons why you might want to try this app out.
When I wrote The World Is Flat, I said the world is flat. Yeah, we’re all connected. Facebook didn’t exist; Twitter was a sound; the cloud was in the sky; 4G was a parking place; LinkedIn was a prison; applications were what you sent to college; and Skype, for most people, was a typo. — Thomas Friedman
What is imo and Why Should I Use It?
When I referred to imo as a Skype alternative earlier, that may have been a little reductive. imo is, pure and simple, a messenger. And I say it with that finality because it has set itself up as the messenger to end all messengers.
A lot of video call services out there have text messaging, but the messaging function is often something that has been added fairly late in the development process. For instance, Skype itself has a text messenger bundled within it, but when thinking about Skype, nobody is thinking about the app as a text messenger. They’re thinking specifically about the video client. And yeah, the video service takes a lot of work, whereas a messenger (comparatively speaking) can be an afterthought. In practical terms, it makes a lot of sense, if you’ve spent a lot of time and resources on something so labor intensive as a video messaging service — put in a little extra effort and add text messaging. And custom emoji, too! Why not?
But getting back on topic — with imo, it’s actually the other way around. imo began as a text messaging service that incorporated accounts from several of the top messaging clients: big names in the field (past and present) such as Skype, AIM (remember that), ICQ (hellooooo, 90s!), MSN Messenger, as well as Facebook Messenger. It wasn’t until early 2013 that Imo added video messaging as an experimental feature for the beta of their Android app. And it seems to have really helped the app take off. And they’ve not just sat on their laurels for the past two years, trusting to a slipshod client. Rather, every update to the app for the past two years has incorporated numerous under the hood improvements to the video calls.
So, if you’re asking why you should give imo a shot, there are numerous reasons:
So our first reason — no, let’s not even call it our first reason, because it’s so simply said, let’s just call it our Zeroth reason (like the Zeroth Law, for any Asimov fans out there). And the reason is this: you should give imo a try because you want to use something other than Skype. Give Microsoft a little competition, you know? Spread that market dominance as thin as it will go.
First of all, if you want an app that is well supported, frequently updates (and, as this in turn suggests, run by a development team that listens to its user base and is responsive to their feedback), then you should give imo a chance.
Secondly, there are a lot of messaging apps out there, and it seems like there are new ones hitting this or that app store every week. And normally, trying out a new one is a non-starter, because the only way that a messaging service is useful is if you have friends using the same service. Snapchat only talks with Snapchat, iMessage only talks with iMessage. And that’s fine for those behemoths, but for the little upstart, it quickly gets to where you can’t get any traction. You as a user can’t risk using New Messenger X because it’s useless without friends. And even if you do build or find a community on the new app, if the app disappears (tech startups can be an unforgiving racket), then all your friends and messages will disappear. But since imo incorporates so many different messaging services in one app, you can try it out with very little risk. See how you like it: You don’t have to build up a whole new community within the app; it integrates nicely with the ones you’ve already built up.
Which leads us to our third point: There’s a real ease and utility to having all of your messaging apps all in one place. Unfortunately, imo still doesn’t interface with Snapchat, which is quite possibly the hottest messaging app around right now, but you can set up Imo to encrypt and auto-delete all of your messages — just like Snapchat can.
Well, those are some reasons why you may want to give imo a chance, and if you’ve decided to do so…
Get imo for PC with This Trick
You may have noticed that imo is currently only available for iPhone and Android, and not for PC or Mac. (You may have noticed this from your own researches, from the problem that led you to look up this article, or from the fact that I said it at the beginning of the article.)
As regular readers of Appamatix know, this problem is not insurmountable. There are numerous emulators that will allow you to virtualize a mobile platform on your Mac or PC, and these emulators can be used to use numerous popular apps on platforms they weren’t intended for.
Regular readers also know that we usually favor Android emulation over iOS emulation because secure Android emulators are more reliably found, and because downloading the Android-specific .apk file is a lot more manageable than getting your hands on the iOS based app file.
There’s additional good news on this front, too, because unlike most apps, which would require a little fancy footwork with the Google Play store in order to a hold of the .apk file, in this case, the development team behind imo has made the .apk readily available. There’s a download link straight from the imo web page that will get you that all-important .apk file.
This suggests (to me, at least) that the team behind Imo is encouraging emulation, which is both a good and a bad thing. It’s a good thing because, if the development team is actually encouraging emulation, it means they’re not going to code their app in such a way as to make emulation more difficult. If they did, then circumventing it would require you to use dodgier and dodgier DRM-evading software, and when you start going down that path, you start coming up to sites and utilities that are loaded with all sorts of system-exploiting Trojans. It also means they’re not likely to bring any kind of action against the developers of the emulators, or you, the user, which would potentially jeopardize your accounts under terms of service.
Of course, the downside to this laissez faire attitude towards emulation is that it may mean that the team behind Imo is entertaining absolutely n o plans to make any kind of non-mobile based app. No desktop port, or anything like that.
That’s a possibility, but of course, I thought the same thing about WhatsApp, and they’ve recently come out with the browser based WhatsApp Web. So it is still possible that there may be a game-changing development around the next corner that will obviate everything I’m about to tell you. But, barring the unforeseen, here’s the simple trick to virtualizing Imo on your Mac or PC:
- Go to the imo website.
- Click on the “Download imo afk now” button.
- Direct the download to where you can find it later on.
- For the purposes of these instructions, I’m working with Bluestacks. There are numerous Android emulators that you can use, and I cycle through them from time to time. They all offer different experiences, and feel free to try out whatever you like if you don’t already have an emulator that’s your go-to. You can find Bluestacks here.
- Download and install Bluestacks.
- For this next bit, you will need a Google Play account. If you’re entirely an iOS user (which is to say, you own and operate exactly zero Android devices), then you might not have one. You can sign up for one easily enough by heading over to Google Play, but the problem is that most apps (especially messaging apps) will be completely useless if the Google Play account hasn’t (at some point in its existence) been synced to an active phone. But there is a loophole around this. If you have an Android using friend (and you most likely do), see if you can get them to lend you their phone. You just sign them out of their Google Play account, sign into yours, and then sign right back out of yours. That’s it. Your account now thinks there is a phone associated with it, and you’ll be able to use imo to its fullest potential.
- In Bluestacks, there is a “1 click sync” button. This will sync your Bluestacks with your Google Play account.
- Upload the .apk file from the place where you put it to the emulated Android device. This will install it into your virtual Android.
- Tap (click) on the icon as normal, and you should be in imo.
And that’s the one trick for getting imo to work on a PC. If you have any questions about what we’ve put here, or if you would like to share your own experiences with imo, feel free to mention it in the comments.