Today, AIM for iPhone (both the free and paid versions) received a significant update. On its iTunes page description, AOL claims that “AIM has evolved.” Has it?

For those interested in a behind-the-scenes look at AppAdvice, here’s an insider secret: we use AIM for our office communications. As such, I was particularly interested in how the updated AIM stacked up to the older version. Please note that AIM for iPad has not yet received today’s update. Therefore, I was able to compare the old version on the iPad and the new version on the iPhone.

One of the key benefits of the update is that it allows you to store and sync your message history, as well as choose to “go off the record,” which will prevent your messages from being saved. I also liked the option to copy and paste individual messages into another program, such as email. It’s also easier than ever to set up group chats.

Perhaps my favorite new feature was the ability to share photos directly in the conversation thread. Here is a screenshot of me testing out the new update with my editor-in-chief. Note the “never miss a message” picture that enlarges when clicked on.

Screenshot

My biggest complaint is that the new update removed my buddy lists. I now have to scroll through all my contacts to see who is online. Not that I really used it, but my lifestream has also disappeared.

For me, the benefits of the new updates outweigh the loss of the old features. However, not everyone will feel that way. Overall, this update is less an evolution than a few steps forward in some respects, and a step back in others.

Here is the full changelog:

Features:

  • Chat with a friend or group of friends with the new “Start a Chat” button
  • Customize your groups with features like add/kick members, edit group icon and mute
  • Favorite your friends and group chats for instant access
  • Share photos and your location without leaving the conversation
  • Copy and paste messages
  • Tap on location previews in your conversation to get directions
  • Tap on icons to quickly view user details or group chat settings
  • See your social notifications for activity on your AIM, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts
  • Turn on “Do Not Disturb” to turn off sounds and push notifications
  • Set quiet hours to mute sounds and push notifications for when you don’t want to be disturbed
  • Change your incoming message sound in sound settings
  • Connect to Facebook Chat and Google Talk in your chat networks settings

AIM for iPhone is available in the App Store – free of charge for the free edition and $2.99 for the paid edition, which has no ads, and more sounds in the sound settings.