And the winner is… Twitter Clients face off.
(Note revisions under the TwitterFon section. New version!)
My search for the perfect Twitter client for iDevices continues. (See Social Friendlies Sighted). There are have to be at least 10 strong contenders currently on the App Store. I have tried the free versions of most that offer free versions, and paid for two that don’t.
For the past few weeks my three favorites have resided on my Touch, and I tried to be faithful in switching back and forth until I discovered which one I actually like using the most, or came up against an obviously missing feature that I was using in the other clients. After all, twittering is not such a huge part of my life that I am willing to keep three clients on my iPod Touch. Two would have to go.
TwitterFon is clearly the best deal here. Free. It is also, at least by impressions, the fastest and most responsive. It will, when you have not checked your tweets in a while, load enough tweets at one time for most anyone. And it is attractive. The layout of tweets and profiles is elegant, and navigation is pretty straightforward. There are only two tweet color codings: Read (white) and unread (light blue).
It does a lot of things that I really like. If you open a tweet, it displays where the tweet was sent from. I do not know why I am interested in this, but I am. It tells me, I guess, if the tweeter is sitting in front of the computer, or out somewhere using a mobile device. Maybe. I don’t know. I just like it to be there. It also displays the bio information when you open one of your follower’s profiles. Again, I don’t know why this is important, but it is to me.
Opening urls within tweets is not as intuitive as some clients. URLs are not highlighted or underlined, and are not direct links (touching does nothing). If a Tweet contains a URL, there will be a white arrow in a blue circle on the right side of the tweet (as opposed to the normal little gray arrow without circle). Touching the circled arrow opens the tweet. The URL is still not highlighted or underlined, but there is another circled arrow on the right side of the tweet. Touching that will open the in-line browser to view the URL. (It took me quite a while to figure this out. At first I thought TwitterFon did not open URLs at all.)
TwitterFon’s one major shortcoming, as far as I am concerned, is that it does not drill down past the first profile level. It lists the tweeter’s total following and followers numbers, but does not list the individual followers or followings, and there is no way to open those peoples’ profiles to see who they are following and who their followers are, etc. etc. Again, others may not find this necessary. I like, on rare occasions, to see how one of my followers or someone I am following is connected in the Twitterverse. For one thing, I often find someone among their connections that I would like to follow.
Still, if fast, responsive, elegant is all you need in a Twitter client, then TwitterFon is by far your best choice, even when tested against the paid competition.
NOTE: Today (1/2/2009) version 1.3 of TwitterFon was released as a free upgrade to this free program. It adds the ability to drill down into followers and following from user profiles as deeply as you would want to go, and, though it is not obvious at first glance, it also adds Trends. Then too, TwitterFon has added a third color to its coding, the same strange green that Tweetie uses for replies and mentions. In addition, unique among Twitter Clients, the TwitterFon url browser now has sideways view! With these additions, and considering that it is, among those clients I have tested, the fastest, and still free, the only reason you might pick a paid app (Tweetie) over TwitterFon is if you need multiple accounts or simply like the layout and style better. This is an amazing effort for a free program.
I really tried to like Tweetsville. It is the most expensive twitter client I have tried…expensive being relative to free here…at $4.99 it still very affordable, and half the price of Twitteriffic Pro. I bought it on the recommendation of another reviewer, just in time for the Twitter Favorites Null Value disaster which put more than one twitter client on the ropes for a few weeks there. The short of it is that for the first weeks I owned the program, if it opened at all, which was rare, it would crash while scrolling through the tweets list. Like I say, this was not really Tapulous’s fault. As I understand it from the rumors going around, Twitter made an unexpected and unannounced change in the way Favorite status is reported in the data base, and many clients were simply not able to cope.
What is Tapulous’s fault is that they continued to sell the program even though they knew it would not run, and it took them the better part of two weeks to get a fix out. TwitterFon was affected by the same bug and, to the creator’s credit, he changed the description on the App store to advise people not to download the program until he could fix it, and he posted a filter/temporary-fixer-web-app to get folks who already relied on the app through the crisis. That is the kind of service that endears a creator to his customers. Besides, it is the right thing to do. No one should continue to sell what they know to be a faulty program.
Okay, with that out of my system, Tweetsville has a lot to offer. If you like the chat bubble layout, it offers a clean, elegant bubble view…or you can opt for the traditional list view. URLs are highlighted in the tweet text, and touching them opens the in-line browser directly. Sweet. It will drill down infinitely from the tweeter’s profile to followers and following and on to their followers and followings, etc. etc. It has a search feature to search for keywords in tweets. It has a trends feature that tracks the top keywords.
The layout is attractive (both views), and navigation is relatively straightforward. I find replying to a tweet a bit awkward. You have to open the tweet first, and then select Reply from a list that includes Direct Message and Retweet, but also such unrelated things as View Profile. It works though, and it most direct of the apps in applying retweets.
It displays the most tweets at a go of any of the programs I have tested: 200.
Unfortunately, perhaps because of that long tweet list, it is also the slowest to open of any twitter client I have tried. And, while it is loading tweets, you are staring at a blank white screen (wondering, given recent experience, if it is going to open at all). The slowness persists in that it sometimes takes a while for it to load the atvars of the tweeters. At least once, after following a new tweeter, it refused to get the atvar at all until I cleared the cache and forced it to redownload all atvars.
So, while I do like Tweetsville and find it both attractive and usable…and certainly feature rich…given the intense competition in the clients, it is not my final pick, and will not, despite the $4.99 invested, be finding a permanent place on my iPod Touch. I will, of course, watch for updates and new versions, and give it another try if and when.
Which brings us to may actaul pick of the litter. I purchased Tweetie when Tweetsville refused to perform, since it was only $2.99 and by then I knew I would be writing this review. It turns out, the $2.99 was well invested.
Tweetie also offers your choice of chat bubble and list views, and the bubble view is enhanced with color coding, and directionality. Tweets come in from the left, replies from the right, with atvars placed appropriately. This takes up, of course, a good deal of screen real estate, and is not, perhaps the most efficient way to view tweets. Worse, the color picked for self tweets is a particularly sick shade of green (it might look better on a 3G phone or 2G Touch, I have the 1G Touch). Strangely, this same color in the list view is just fine, perhaps because it not set off against a stark white background. I use list view, for both efficiency and aesthetic reasons. (Text size is adjustable in list view…a very nice feature!)
Tweetie is the only client in this set that allows multiple accounts. It also has the search by keyword feature, and Trends (and the list seems both more extensive and more comprehensive than the Tweetsville or TwitterFon trend lists).
Navigation is straightforward. I like the use of icons instead of text for major functions. When you open a tweet, for instance, you have only three icons across the bottom of the screen. The Reply swooshy arrow thing on the right (where it belongs), a star for favoriting in the center and the swooshy arrow overlaid on an envelope on the left. When you touch the reply arrow, you then have a choice of public tweet or direct message. When you touch the reply envelop thingy it gives you the choice of Reposting Tweet (retweeting) or emailing a link to the tweet. (If it is your own tweet, as in the illustration, you also have the option of deleting the tweet.)
As in Tweetsville, you can drill down into following/followers and profiles as deeply as you want to go, and, as in TwitterFon, Tweetie displays the bio information when you view a profile. All three programs allow you to unfollow, but while it is just one option in a list of options in Tweetsville (and placed next to Visit Twitter Page where you might hit it by accident), it is a big red, unmistakable button next to the atvar in Tweetie. In general I prefer the layout of tweets and profiles in Tweetie as well. It just matches my sense of logic and design better. You may differ 🙂
While URLs are not highlighted or active in the list view (as they are in Tweetsville), they are highlighted in the tweets view, and open in the in-line browser with a touch.
Finally, Tweetie is fast. It opens fast and shows that it is updating. It only loads about 25 tweets, but there is a load more button that will fetch another 25 at a touch. All functions work quickly, with minimal lag. (The one exception is the loading of atvars, which can be slower than on TwitterFon, especially on a weak wireless connection.)
So, if you are in need of a full featured Twitter client, and are willing to pay for it, I highly recommend Tweetie. At $2.99 it is very reasonalbe, and I think you will find that it does everything you need it to do, and more, with a fair amount of elegance. It is the, for the moment, the second twitter client that has earned a permanent place on my Touch.
Now if they would only lets us select some other color for replies and mentions!