SHAPE Services continues to add new features and fine tune their instant messaging products and platform. Both IM+ and IM+Pro support two more instant messaging services, gain the geeky feel of augmented reality searching, and improve upon existing features.

The United States has Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, AOL, Facebook, and a number of other companies that offer well-known instant messaging services. However, that’s not to say other regions of the world don’t have social-networking systems with tons of users. SHAPE recognizes this fact and has added support for two popular Russian instant messaging services, VKontakte and Yandex IM, to the IM+ apps. And speaking of international user acknowledgement, Portuguese and Dutch join the list of natively supported languages.

Augmented reality on the iPhone was once just a concept tinkered with by developers, and not even allowed by Apple’s SDK policies initially, but is now becoming a pretty common feature for travel, lifestyle, and social-networking apps as a secondary search option. Where has SHAPE implemented AR? They’ve added it as a traditional map replacement to be used on iDevices equipped with cameras for the Neighbors service.

Like the augmented reality feature of some other iOS apps, IM+ displays the search results, nearby people, as floating icons, photo avatars, overlapped on a live video feed to give a perspective of distance and direction of their current location compared to your own. It does make sense to search and even navigate in such a way for close objects, although, AR still seems gimmicky to me. I feel it’s neat and nice to have the option, but not a must-have feature.

Further changes made in IM+ and IM+ Pro v5.3 include:

• Messages can now be sent to offline Facebook contacts
• Updated set of emoticons for all IM services
• Option to set separate status message for Neighbors service
• Multiple bugs causing crashes fixed
• UI and overall performance improvements

IM+ is a universal app compatible with iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch running iOS 3.0 or later, and available in the App Store as a free download. IM+Pro is a universal app compatible with iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch running iOS 3.0 or later, and available in the App Store for $5.99.