iTwitter rides the tide of new Twitter Apps
Just when you thought it was safe to stop looking at Twitter apps for the iPhone…
OS 3.0 has apparently opened the floodgates of pent up Twitter app demand, at least to go by the number of new Twitter clients appearing on the App Store this last week. Surprisingly, most of the committed players, from Tweetie to TwitterFon and Twitterific, seem to be lagging behind with 3.0 aware updates. Almost all the real action is in new clients, or in renamed and repositioned clients no one ever heard of before.
The obvious exception here is Twittelator Pro, already reviewed, which takes good advantage of almost all the OS 3.0 refinements and possibilities, as well as providing perhaps the richest and best concieved feature set of any current app. There are a few changes I’d like to see, mostly UI stuff, but in my opinion, Twittelator Pro is the app to beat. There are just so many things you can do with it, so easily, that it makes any other current app seem highly restrictive. And a 3.0.1 version with improvements is due out soon.
That said, lets take a look at iTwitter. If you did not download iTwitter on 7/5, when it was free for a day, then you will be paying $3.99 for this app. In it’s current version, it might not worth that to you. There are free apps that work as well and do everything it does, and sometimes more (but they are not as pretty!).
However, as an investment in the future of the app, the $3.99 might make sense. And certainly with the next upgrade, if you want to wait for that (promised within a few weeks), it just might be worth every penny.
iTwitter has, in my opinion, the most elegant user interface of any twitter app I have seen. Hands down. No real competition. It may still lack what I feel are essential features, and be missing some nicities, but all the ground work is there for it to become a supper efficient, powerful, easy, fast and fun twitter client.
By the way: The standout feature of iTwitter is Push Notification. Yes it has it. Sort of. It only works when both sender and receiver are using iTwitter, and so far I have not been able to make it work at all. Reports are that it works at least for some, some of the time. Like much else in iTwitter, it just might not be mature yet. [Note: I just got my first push from another iTwitter user! So whatever my issue with the registration fail message has magically solved itself! Still not the best implementation, since it only works with other iTwitter users, but it does appear to work.]
You will note in the home screen shot above that iTwitter shows the unread or new count on each category. If you scroll back a page to the Accounts Page, you see the aggregate new count for each account you are working with (you can have as many as you like).
Going to the Home list (friends), you will note several interesting refinements. You may or may not like the text bubble presentation, but the interesting part is that on replies, both here and in the Mentions view, the text of the tweet replied to is appended at the bottom of the bubble in smaller type (see first screen shot below). This makes a whole lot of sense, though it does not substitute for, say, Twittelator’s conversation view…which searches out the whole chain of previous tweets that are referenced, back as far at it goes. Still, most of the time I am just wondering what tweet my friends are replying to, and iTwitter’s approach works for that. So easy.
Note the unread count at the top of list view. There is a Mark All Read icon on the footer. Scrolling down in the list does not make the tweets read, or decrease the count. Replying to the tweets does not make them read. You have to mark them read with the control under the icon.
Tap a tweet and the quick Reply/Retweet/Favor control pops up. Again, easy and elegant. If there are links, #hashtags, or @users in the tweet, these also appear as options in the popup. Very slick. Tap the atvar and the user profile opens up, again in a floating pallet kind of thing. Very elegant. You can drill down by tapping followers, etc. You will see the DM button, but also might note the lack of a Reply control. Glaring oversight! Personally, until they fix that, a deal-killer for me, at least for using iTwitter as a full time client. Still, I really like that floating profile pallet thingy!
By the way, iTwitter is the only Twitter client on the iPhone that I know of that operates in landscape for all functions. Just tip it over in whatever view, not only in the keyboard view, and it will flip to landscape. This is more practical than you might think, as it avoids flipping the phone around every time you come back from posting a tweet or reply.
Note also the little symbol next to the standard location icon in the tweet box. That pulls up a list of your friends to initiate a reply (just like Twittelator Pro). Note also the camera icon. You can upload pics directly from the app.
iTwitter has a feature, ported over from popular desktop clients, that is just becoming common in the more advanced iPhone clients: groups (Twittelator Pro, TweetDeck for iPhone, TweetBox, etc.). You can easily create and manage as many sub-groups of your twitter friends as you like…though there is as yet no way to add someone to a group on the fly (as in Seesmic or TweetDeck on the desktop). You have to use the edit groups function on the Home screen.
So, if this thing is so elegant, and it is elegant and fun, then why is not my choice of Twitter clients?
1) the above mentioned lack of any easy way to reply to someone mentioned in a tweet, or to a new follower, for that matter. You can open their profile but there is no reply control. That is the killer for me.
2) iTwitter only uploads pics to TwitPic. I need other choices. And, of course, we are in OS 3.0 now, so they need to be working on uploads for audio and video.
2) no saved searches [Like most iPhone apps, iTwitter is practically undocumented. It does have saved searches. I just could not find them. Once I did, they work fine, adding themselves to the Home page even. The way it is implimented, you can even use a saved search as a kind of bookmark to make checking a particular friend or associate’s tweets relatively painless.]
3) new tweet/mention/dm counts do not diminsh as tweets are viewed, read, replied to, etc. Mark as Read is a poor substitute, especially as you it is all or nothing. You can not mark a group of tweets read without marking the whole list.
4) The inline browser seems a bit flaky (opens flickr links in the main flickr site not m.flickr.com for instance, does not display some graphics, and does not enlarge with multi-touch smoothly), though the TwitPic viewer is excellent, with landscape view and all (just needs to work with other Pic sites.)
5) General lack of the richer feature set avaialble in Twittelator Pro. I am becoming addicted, for instance, to being able to copy tweets, email tweets from with the app, bookmark friends (and especially app developers) to keep track of all their tweets, and so many of the little extras packed into Twittelator that moving to a simplier client is going to be hard on me, no matter how good (or how elegant) the new client is on its own.
In conclusion: iTwitter has huge potential. Keep your eye on it.
But unless it has a feature you can’t live without right now (and that would not, in my experience, be Push Notification [even thought it now seems to be working at least]) then you might want to hold on to your $3.99 until the next version at least. On the other hand, if you can live with it’s current limitations, it is certainly a slick UI! The slickest.
I am going to do a brief review of some other new offerings in the next post.