Tweetie Gets Competition: Twitterfon Pro, Twitterific 2.0
For many months now, I have not looked at another iPhone Twitter app (well, maybe I looked, but I have been faithful). Tweetie has ruled, in the app store, in TwitStats (#3 Twitter client overall!), and on my iPhone.
It was inevitalbe, of course, that the makers of the other Twitter iPhone apps would notice, and eventually attempt to catch up, adding new features and refining their own unique set, polishing their UIs and pushing code to the max.
Within the past few weeks Twitterific, one of the original Twitter clients, and still very popular, was upgraded to version 2.0 (both free, with ads…and premium, without ads). Last week Twitterfon’s free version was uped to 1.5, adding a bunch of new features (along with ads similar to Twitterific’s free version), and a few days later Twitterfon Pro, with even more features and no ads hit the store.
And suddenly it is a horse race again!
Tweetie is still hard to beat. It combines just about every essential feature in a UI that is clean and uncluttered and, for the most part, logical and consistent. In fact, until you try Twitterific or Twitterfon Pro, you probably would not notice any missing features or awkwardness. (What you don’t know, as they say, can’t hurt you.) Even after discovering some of the niftier unique bits of the competition, you will still have to decide if Tweetie’s own set of unique features is preferable to what it is missing. Not easy.
So, taking a purely idiosyncratic approach, here is my analysis of the features that are important to me, and how they work (or don’t work) in Tweetie, Twitterific 2.0, and Twitterfon Pro.
For screen shots of the various apps which illustrate the features below visit:
Twitterfon (simple scroll down page with features clearly labeled)
Tweetie (slideshow, click on image or nav bar at the top to advance)
Twitterific (homepage, with links to flash shows of features, and a full set of instruction videos)
Multiple Accounts: okay, so not everyone needs this feature, but I have multiple Twitter personalities, and I do. All three apps manage multiple accounts with ease.
Tweetie has an Accounts page and an accounts button in the header to access it: to add new accounts, to edit the settings for existing accounts, and to switch accounts.
Twitterific has a Sources page and a sources button in the header which does the same, with the addition of displaying a public timeline (unique to Twitterific), search, nearby, and trends. (I might note that the “Quick Search” feature on the Twitterific sources page belies its name in the sense that it offers a wide array of search options on a single page. Quick in this usage does not mean simplified or basic. It means comprehensive and easy to use.)
Twitterfon displays the account name in the header (as do the other two). Tapping the account name drops you into the accounts page, where you can add accounts, edit account settings, or switch accounts. Don’t know why, but this approach…tap the account name to change the account…seems the most natural to me: higher grin factor somehow than a dedicated button (once you find it, of course).
Reply: Yes, this is probably pretty basic, but none of these apps handle it the same way, and preferences are unavoidable. Tweetie and Twitterfon allow you to open the tweet on a new page, with access to more information about the tweeter, and dedicated reply buttons (Twitterfon), or icons in the footer bar (Tweetie). Twitterific will also open the tweet in a new page, but in conversation view, with any previous associated tweets it can find. There is a reply icon in the footer. Conversation view can be set to open easily with a single, double, or tripple tap on the tweet or atvar (single tap only works on the atvar).
(Twitterfon also has conversation view, though it is harder to find. Once a tweet is open, tapping the from @ in the bottom line opens the conversation. Tweetie only has conversation view for Direct Messages.)
However, none of those is the day to day reply method for these apps. Tweetie has a swipe action that slides in an icon panel in place of the tweet. Swipe across the tweet left to right and you see icons for reply, open sender profile, and favorite.
To reply to a tweet in Twitterfon, you tap the atvar. Simple.
To reply to a tweet in Twitterific, you select the tweet (it appears to recess into the screen) and the New Tweet icon in the footer turns into a reply icon.
Which is better/faster/more logical. Twitterfon’s takes the fewest motions. Tap the atvar. Type. Tweetie takes a swipe and a tap. Twitterific takes a tap and a tap. Tweetie’s swipe is elegant and high on the coolness quotient and gives you quick access to the profile of the sender as well as reply. You can set Twitterific to open the profile of the sender with a tap (or two) on the tweet or atvar, so that is really the same motions, and then you have a reply button on that page. Tapping the tweet in Twitterfon opens a tweet page with a profile button as well as reply, retweet, and direct message. Your choice. Twitterfon wins on pure speed.
Direct Message/Retweet: Like I said above, Twitterfon has the DM button on the opened tweet page, along with reply and retweet, as does Tweetie. Both are two tap operations.
While Direct Message in Twitterific is dead easy, I had to do some research to find retweet. Direct Message is one of three options at bottom of the text entry window whenever you open it with the reply or new tweet icons: tweet (talk bubble), reply (@), or direct message (envelope). Retweet on the other hand is hidden in an icon menu that opens when you touch the * in the footer with a tweet selected. Retweet is one of 9 options. (Others are Conversation, sender profile, sender search, tweet link, favorite, mark, email, and…when it is your own tweet…delete.) Once you know where it is, retweet is really only one more tap in Twitterific than it is in Tweetie or Twitterfon.
DM, on Twitterific is, actually, also one more tap than on either Tweetie or Twitterfon.
What matters more is the logic. Where do you want your DM and Retweet functions? What do you find more natural and spontaneous?
I really like the little tab switches for Tweet, @, and DM on Twitterific, but I do not like where the retweet icon is hidden. I can live with either Twitterfon’s or Tweetie’s button/icon approach on the tweet page for either DM or Retweet. As matter of record, Tweetie takes one more tap to get to DM or Retweet than Twitterfon (again).
Also note that if you are fan of the RT format, as opposed to via, Twitterific and Tweetie allow you to choose RT for Retweets. Tweetie makes you feel guilty about it, but it is there, deep in the advanced area of settings.
Landscape keyboard/tweet entry/in-line URL view: It took me a long time to get used to the portrait keyboard on the iPhone, and I still vastly prefer the landscape layout. Both Tweetie and Twitterfon have effective landscape keyboards, both customized for tweet entry with icons for common functions (add photo and location, on both. Open friends list on Twitterfon. Twitterfon’s landscape mode is a real rotating mode. The orientation of the phone determines which view you are using (in fact, the Undo/trash icon is only visible in Portrait mode so you have to rotate back to get to it when you need it). Tweetie can be set to use either portrait or landscape mode in the settings app, but once set you are locked in. (I have discovered, the hard way, that rotating the phone while a tweet is sending in Twitterfon locks the screen in landscape mode even when you go back to the list view. Interesting effect, but somehow I do not believe it is intentional. Shutting down and relaunching the ap cures it.)
In addition both Tweetie and Twittterfon offer landscape view of in the in-line URL browser. Twitterific does not.
Open my own profile: No I am not that stuck on myself, but sometimes, since following folks who follow me can get really complicated on the web Twitter page with more than one account, I like to open my iPhone client to do follows of followers. For that I need access to my followers, which are, of course, in my profile.
Tweetie has a My Profile button in the More menu (accessed by the … icon in the footer).
Twitterific makes it as easy as tapping your name in the header. Of course, opening my profile does me no good, in this case, because I can not view my followers. This is an inexplicable omission in a modern Twitter client. Both Tweetie and Twitterfon not only allow you to view your own followers, they allow you to drill down and view the followers of your followers (and on and on to some untested depth). Same with those you follow. You can see who they are following, who is following them, etc. and drill down as far as you are likely to want to go. This is great for finding new people who you might want to follow, and essential, as I have said, for following followers. ?? Twitterific ??
In Twitterfon, on the other hand, unless I am missing something, the only way to open your own profile is to do a profile search for your own username. Can you spell awkward? You can save your username to the search history by doing a regular search on it, then recall it from the history and tap it in the search field to activate the profile button, then get your profile. Not that helpful. On the other hand, the Twitterfon profile view is as complete as Tweetie’s and just as user-friendly, once you get there.
Drill down followers: see under Twitterific above.
Speed loading atvars: this is not really a feature, more of an annoyance when it does not work right. Tweetie caches atvars locally so it is pretty fast loading them…however, it only updates the cache like, every other week, so it can go a while before your newest atvar shows up on your own iPhone (or anyone else’s new atvar for that matter). Twitterfon has always loaded atvars really fast. I don’t know how it is done but it works. Twitterific, on the other hand, can hang even in wifi, and be dead slow on 3G.
Scroll to Unread/New Tweet Count: As the author/creator of Tweetie rightly points out, there is no way a client can actually scroll to the first unread since no client currently knows what tweets you have read in another client or on the desktop. Still, it is a nice feature if the client at least opens to first unread tweet in that client. Twitterfon seems to do this flawlessly and has for several versions. In addition, it displays the count for new tweets, mentions, and direct messages as number bubbles on the appropriate icons in the footer. So cool.
Tweetie seems to do okay with finding the first unread, but only okay. It does not seem quite reliable, and if the number of new tweets equals or exceeds the limit for the initial tweet load you have set, it always dumps you out at the top. I find this mildly annoying.
Twitterific also attempts to find the first unread, and is okay. Sometimes it actually reloads tweets it already has displayed (displaying them twice), and it only displays the number of new tweets (no mentions or messages) as a fleeting banner at the top of the tweet list, but it is okay.
If this functionality is important to you, there is only one choice. Twitterfon does it best.
Rich Text list view (live, tappable URLs, @s, and #s right in the list view of tweets!). Rich text view is the most natural way to display tweets. In my opinion it should not be necessary to open a tweet to follow a link within that tweet. Period. Twitterific has had live links for a long time. Twitterfon, which actually had no live links at all in previous versions, even in tweet page view, just added them in the list and tweet views. Elegant and simple. Tweetie does not have them in the list view, though they come live in the tweet view. Still, it should not be necessary to open a tweet to activate a link. Period. Time Tweetie got got the message! (Especially since Rich Text view is a licensable technology…not something that even needs to be recreated.)
Themes: Okay, not essential to anyone. It is only a look, right? Tweetie has three. Twitterific has three. Twitterfon has four. None will be exactly to your liking. One will be close enough.
Integration: Picture posting: all have it. Tweetie allows you to pick one of three services, Twitterific one of four. URL shotner. All have it. Twitterfon allows you to use your own bitly account for customized urls. Automatic in both Twitterfon and Tweetie. Selectable for each tweet or reply in Twitterific. Text overlow shortners: Tweetie and Twitterific. Instapaper: Tweetie and Twitterific. Ping.fm (for simultanioius Facebook posts…or whatever else you set on ping): Tweetie only! (This could be deal breaker for some.)
And finally, one that might not matter to anyone but me.
Display of real names: Yes, I know, I should be able to recognize folks by their atvars and usernames, and not everyone even supplies a real name, but I do like to see them when possible. Twitterific shows them by default. Tweetie can be set to show them. Twitterfon, come on, get with it. The real name is just a tap away in the tweet view, but why not in the list?
And now for a feature none of these have. Twhril and Seesmic Desktop Preview both feature overlapping atvars on replys. The sender’s atvar appears slightly small, with an even smaller version of the recipient’s atvar superimposed in the bottom left corner. So cool. I’d like to see one of these apps step up and borrow that feature.
The Winner! So which of these clients earns pride of place on my iPhone? Honestly I am not all that sure yet. It is a really close race.
I still like Tweetie. It is elegant and well thought through, consistent in its design and philosophy. It has some really clever interface twists. It’s few annoyances are easy to live with. I expect it to get even better in the next upgrade, as it is forced to play catch up for the first time in a long time. And, when traveling, and I am without the ping.fm dashboard in my browser, I will probably use it for its simultaneous Facebook updates.
I like Twitterific much better than I thought I would. It has some really nice features which I have not even gotten into here because they are simp0ly not features I use day to day. However its inability to display followers, either my own or my follower’s, is a deal breaker for me. Luckily the free version keeps upgrading with the Premium so I can keep checking it as it matures.
I really like Twitterfon Pro. I like everything about it except that it does not display real names and support ping.fm. It feels like the fastest app by a very small margin. I like the new tweets, mentions, and messages count and display. I like the reliable scroll to first unread. I find the logic of its layout pleasing. For the moment, it will probably replace Tweetie as my day in day out client.
But that is just me. Honestly, any one of these apps is worth the price of the paid app, and will make you a happy iPhone twitterer in short order. Tweet on my twitter mates!