SimplyTweet takes the lead in the iPhone Twitter client race.
[This was written while v2.0 was still pending in the App Store. 2.1 is the current version in the Store, and 2.2 has been submitted. This is an app in rapid development. See update]
If I were to tell you that there is a Twitter client for the iPhone out there that has the speed, ease of use, and attractiveness (including choice of themes, and multiple accounts) of an app like Tweetie or Twitterfon Pro; as deep a feature set as Twittelator Pro or TweetDeck (including unread counts and the equivalent of groups, bookmarks, and saved searches); and…drum roll…the first ever, full fledged, any Twitter client, push notifications!…you might say (as I did), “Okay, then why haven’t I heard of it?”
Did I say Push Notifications…push notifications that work the way you always expected push to function. I did!
First reason so few have heard of SimplyTweet might be the unassuming and wildly modest (not to say totally inappropriate) name. SimplyTweet sounds like it might be one of those single function quick status updators that proliferated in the early days of the iPhone app store. Instead, it is, as hinted above, a mature (v1.7 current, 2.0 under review at the app store as I write), intelligently designed and implemented client that equals, and exceeds, the features of much better known apps.
The second reason is a rather unique design that, until now, has emphasized one feature above all others: the ability to view tweets and replies as a conversation, going back as far as the chain goes. SimTweet (for brevity) used, through current version 1.7, a single uncustomizable timeline view modeled on chat bubbles (still an option in apps like Tweetie), but from any open tweet, or from the timeline contols themselves, you could also select a conversation view in a similar chat bubble format (the only other app that I know of that has this ability is Twittelator Pro). Still, the lack of themes, along with some people’s aversion to chat bubbles (even Tweetie had to give in to users who didn’t like them), and the one feature to rule all others (Twitter is about conversations) way the program has been presented, may well have served to keep it low on Twitterati’s radar.
I am not saying that conversation tracking and conversation view is a trivial or an unimportant feature. It is what I like best about Twittelator Pro, and, until SimTweet 2.0 hits the app store with functional Push Notifications and essentially changes the nature of the game, it is still, among a host of strong features, SimTweet’s strongest feature.
My review is based on the still pending v2.0, but somewhere along the line another killer feature crept into SimTweet. I don’t have a change log for the various versions before 1.7 so I don’t know when it arrived, but Saved Views (in SimTweetese) is the kind of functional advance that only a few other iPhone clients have yet managed. In more common terms, Saved Views are subgroups, as in Twittelator Pro, or groups, as in TweetDeck (or Seesmic on the desktop). You can select a group of the tweeps you follow (from an indexed list of followers that SmTweet presents for you), name the group (or view), and save it. It then appears on the More page along with all the other options. Tap it, and SmTweet assembles the tweets from each of the tweeps on your list and presents them (and only them) as a timeline. So slick.
And, of course, by making a Saved View that only contains one of those you follow, you have duplicated Twittelator Pro’s bookmark function. Two for one. Not bad.
Finally, in a really brilliant move, SmTweet (at least in v2.0) provides the option on the user profile page to add the open user to any of your saved views. So easy. So obvious. Best group implementation to date.
SmTweet also has a robust inline browser, a pic viewer which works with most of the major pic sharing sites (so the browser does not have to open to view a pic link). It is the one of the first pic viewers I have seen that offers lanscape view…and if there is more than one pic url in a tweet, or a link to a Posterous slideshow, it presents the pics as a slideshow with next and previous buttons.
It is this kind of attention to detail that makes me totally amazed (and a little saddened) that so few have ever heard of SimplyTweet!
As though that were not enough pic goodness, v2.0 also includes a Picture Search function under the More tab (so far as I know, totally unique in a Twitter client, and very rare on the iPhone at all), that uses keywords and tags to search several of the major Twitter friendly pic sharing sites and return a set of pics to match.
Have I mentioned that the control set of SmTweet is one of the best designed of any client I have seen. It uses a similar swipe popup control on the timeline and conversation views to display Reply, Favor, and View Conversation Icons. Tapping the atvar on any Tweet opens the corresponding user profile page with all the usual information and the ability to drill down into followers and followed.
The open tweet page has its own set of controls, from Reply in the upper right, to Conversation View and Retweet in the lower left. The lower right has your standard reply swoosh over a box (sometimes called the action icon), and indeed, reveals a set of controls to email or post a link to the tweet in question. (Through v1.7 SmTweet kicked you out to the mail app to mail your tweet. Beginning with v2.0 it has an inline mail function that keeps you within SmTweet. Much better!)
The User Profile page has a DM composition control in the upper right and, again the swoosh box action icon in the lower right. This were the option to add the tweep to one of your Saved Views is hidden, along with a reply option, and, deep breath, the ability to a attach a note to that user’s profile…unless, of course, you are on your own profile page, where those options are replaced with a control that allows you to, get this, edit your Twitter profile right from inside SmTweet! Again, I know of no other client that allows you to do this.
SimplyTweet? I don’t think so. This app is certainly simple to use, but it goes way beyond simply tweeting.
It is than attention to detail thing again. For instance, the new themes in v2.0 are among the most elegant I have seen in any app. Silver and Twilight in particular are, imho, beautiful. Then too, SmTweet allows you to choose one of three formats for retweets: RT, via, and via with quotations. It allows you to set Posterous as a tweet overflow url so long tweets get a link at the end to the complete text saved on your Posterous account. How cool is that? There is also Instapaper integration. The More tab is rich. Here you find items like Trends, access to your saved profile notes, an option to view the Public Twitter timeline, a Go To User function that will open any user’s profile directly, your accounts settings, and the Saved Views you have created.
And then take the composition box, which operates either portrait or landscape. In addition to the post picture icon and the character count, there is another action icon. Under there is a popup with controls to shorten the tweet, shorten a URL, enter your location, recall a saved hastag (or copy one in a tweet your are replying to), and, best, to bring up an indexed list of your friends so you can easily enter @users (as many as you like).
The specialized DM composition box also has a + icon in the address field, which allows you to select a different follower and redirect the DM (Again, attention to detail beyond the ordinary.)
And I have not even more than mentioned the most noteworthy 2.0 feature: Push Notifications. Unless the app store approval process screws things up, SimplyTweet stands to be the first full featured Twitter app out the door with truely functional Push Notifications. True, iTwitter is out there, but it only has push between two people using iTwitter. And there are now several single function or limited function apps whose only real purpose is to push notifications form Twitter, and give you the option to open the reply or DM in a so far limited set of Twitter clients. SmTweet does it right. When someone replies to you or direct messages you a message box opens on the home screen (even when your iPhone or Touch is asleep) with a truncated version of the tweet. By default your device also chimes (you can turn notifications off in the Settings app, or disable any level of Push alert.) If, when the Apple Push server poles Twitter, you have more than one @ or DM in the cue, it gives the text of the first and an approximate number of those waiting. Unlocking the iPhone or Touch boots you directly into SmTweet to view the @s or DMs. If your iPhone or Touch is awake when the Push comes, you get a box with control options so you can choose to view or ignore. If you ignore or fail to unlock, the number of waiting @s and DMs is appended to the SmTweet icon on the app page so you will see it when next you check. At this point there are sometimes lags in Push, but as Apple works out the kinks, it will get better.
As I said, SmTweet does Push right and does it well. Very, very impressive for a Twitter client no one has ever heard of. Very very impressive for any twitter client. Way to go SimplyTweet! This is Push the way everyone hopes and expects it to work.
So, is SimplyTweet perfect? Of course not. I have my wish list, based mostly on things other clients already do.
I’d like to see:
1) a “display real names option” (Tweetie, Twittelator Pro, TweetDeck)
2) an easy way to switch between multiple accounts
3) a conversation view for DMs (Tweetie, Twittelator Pro)
4) ping.fm integration for simultaneous posts to Twitter and Facebook (or direct post to Facebook through their API (I can dream)).
Then too, while it just about equals Twittelator Pro’s standard twitter feature set, it is totally lacking (for worse or better depending on how you feel about it) Twlator’s multi-media features. No posting of video or audio from SimplyTweet (yet). Of course there are a few stand alone apps that work well for that already. Media Tweet can use any number of sharing services and post to both Twitter and Facebook through services that offer that feature. TwitReel has its own app and video posting service. Audoboo, is of course, Twitter for audio. You can email any media format to Posterous. I suspect the next iteration of the MobyPicture app will allow video and audio upload as the service already takes all media.
Despite my wishlist, SimplyTweet 2.0 (still under review at the app store) is quite simply a length ahead of any other twitter client out there at the moment. Push, all by itself, is enough to put it out front, but it is the solid feature set, many of which are very rare or totally unique, that really gives it is commanding (imho) lead.
SimplyTweet? I don’t think so. SuperTweet. SuperiorTweet. Surprisingly wonderlishish Tweet app extraordinaire! SimplyTweet is simply the best.