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Tweetie’s Second Coming: Tweetie 2, does it measure up?

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Tweetie 2

Tweetie was, by far, the most popular twitter app on the iPhone and iPod Touch. I suspect it had, and has, more users than all the other twitter apps combined.

If it had a failing, it was that it was not often upgraded. The author, one could argue, got side-tracked with his version for Mac, and left Tweetie on the iPhone pretty much as it was while other, less well known, clients incorporated a host of new features, especially with the advent of OS 3.0. The fact that so many people stuck with Tweetie through it all is testimony to how well Tweetie did its basic job of connecting people to twitter, and doing the things they needed to do with twitter on a day to day basis.

Of course, that made the announcement of Tweetie 2 just that much more delicious to the faithful, and tantalizing to other clients’ users (as well as worrisome to other clients’ developers). Tweetie 2 was greeted with the furor appropriate for, well, a second coming.  It has now arrived, and been thoroughly gushed over all over the net. It is getting generally, absolutely glowing reviews.

full landscape view: surprisingly nice!

full landscape view: surprisingly nice!

Tweetie was, for quite a while, my own twitter client of choice, but I will admit that I was seduced away, first by the richer (if idiosyncraticly implemented) feature set of Twittelator 3.0 (the first client to really make use of the OS 3.0 potentials), and then by the Twittelator-rich feature set, and, shall we say, Tweetie-like simplicity and speed, of SimplyTweet. And I will admit, right up front, that Tweetie 2 will not become my twitter client of choice (not yet at least). There is only room for one twitter app at a time in the main launch bar on my iPhone screen, next to the FaceBook app.  Some of the features that I have come to rely on every day are still only available, or simply better implemented, in SimplyTweet. In what follows you will see that I am unable to avoid comparisons between Tweetie 2 and both Twittelator 3.0 and SimplyTweet 2.5.

excellent tweet view

excellent tweet view

Of course, the second coming of Tweetie  has been complicated by the developer’s decision to break with the free upgrade model that iPhone and App Store users have come to expect. He argues that making all current Tweetie users fork out another $2.99 for v2 is justified because so much of the code is new, but, honestly, it is still Tweetie, and honestly, he does not need to justify the upcharge at all. I am sure, from the changes evident in the new version, that he spent a lot of hours (days, weeks, months) on coding. He deserves to be paid a reasonable wage, and the only way of insuring his income is to charge current users (of which, as noted, there are many) for the new version. It is not like this is a $20 app. And for their original $2.99 most users got close to a year out of Tweetie. The developer did warn potential Tweetie  buyers in good time, right in the app store description, that a new version was iminent, and that it would not be a free upgrade.

It is just that we are all spoiled: we expect unlimited upgrades on $3 apps. What planet are we from?  If developers are going to continue to develop their apps for the iPhone, if, in fact, the app store is to survive in the long run, we have to expect that there will be, that there have to be, charges for new versions. The sooner we get over it, the better for us all…and the better for the health of a platform we, if we admit it to ourselves, have become dependent on. I want to see the iPhone and the app store live and flourish. To do that, developers have to make a living. Simple.

Climbing down off my soap-box now, lets take a look at how Tweetie 2 measures up against the competition.

landscape compose: see that character count toggle?

landscape compose: see that character count toggle?

Opens the compose option panel

Opens the compose option panel

Landscape in all views is actually a surprisingly nice feature. Tweetie 2 is not the first twitter app to implement it. That honor goes to, how could you miss it, Landscape Tweets (and the version of SimplyTweet currently in the approval process, which I have been using in beta for a week now (2.5) also has it). Still, it is a nice feature and well implemented in Tweetie 2. I wasn’t sure. But I do find myself tipping the iPhone over to landscape a lot in List View, and in Tweet View. I almost always use the landscape compose view (which, of course has been available for a long time in many clients). I really like Tweetie’s little arrows at the top of the screen in landscape view that allow you to move through your tweets without returning to the list view (they are there in portrait too, but I am less apt to use them). Somehow it is just easier and more relaxed  for me to read the screen in landscape. Your mileage, of course,  may vary.

And while we are at it, Tweetie 2’s compose screen is elegantly done. Tap the character counter and the keyboard is replaced by a feature selection panel that includes icons for  url shortening, picture attachment (from the library, including video if you have a video accepting service enabled in the settings, or the camera), geotaging, as well as access to recent #hastags and to your list of follow/followers (for @addressing purposes). These options are not unique to Tweetie, of course (SimplyTweet, for one, duplicates them, and adds text shortening, as does Twittelator), but the icon panel replacing the keyboard is.

landscape tweet view

landscape tweet view

The other much heralded (and lauded)  set of Tweetie 2 features has to do with its off-line, tweet caching, and draft abilities. Here, again to be honest, Tweetie 2 is just catching up to Twittelator, and Twittelator goes way beyond Tweetie 2 in its ability to save, view, and work with individual tweets, as well as user-defined sets and selections of tweets. Off-line reading and composition has been in Twittelator almost from the beginning (Twitt a later?).

And both Tweetie 2 and Twittelator apparently trade caching for limits on the number of tweets they load and cache. Tweetie 2 apparently loads about 200 tweets at a time, and caches maybe that many more. Unfortunately 200 tweets, for me, is about an hour’s worth at most times of day…which means my timeline in Tweetie 2 has big gaps unless I open the app on fairly regular basis. I am spoiled, again, by SimplyTweets ability to load all tweets since the last one I read (and that can be 1000 or more first thing in the morning). It is not that I read all those tweets. But I do like to cherry pick, and I do like to know they came in.

swipe pop up icon bar

swipe pop up icon bar

And, speaking of cherry picking, for me, Tweetie’s lack (so far) of groups or sub-lists is a real limitation…I need to be able to have quick access to the tweets of those twits that I really follow, as opposed to those that I casually follow. I don’t want to miss a tweet from my immediate family, or from my closest twitter friends. (Then there are special purposes lists, like my list of twitter app developers 🙂

Of course, Twitter has just implemented their own lists function (which is what Tweetie’s author always said he was waiting on). I don’t have it on my Twitter page yet, so I have not been able to experiment with it, and can not comment on how it works in comparison, say, to Seesmic Desktops groups, Twittelator’s sub-groups, or SimplyTweet’s lists…and I do not know how long it will take Twitter to make the lists function available through API to external clients, but I do know that I, for one, need lists now…and both Twittelator and SimplyTweet provide them.

tweetie2 402

advanced settings include many integration options

And then there is push. I have, somewhat to my own surprise, come to like push in a twitter client. SimplyTweet has great push. It pushes all your accounts. You can go so far as to turn off auto-load for @mentions and DMs and just rely on push, since, even when the app is open, there is an audible and visual alert when a new @ or DM comes in.

Tweetie 2, on the other hand (like Twittelator), still relies on Boxcar or another 3rd party app for its push funcition. True, yesterday they made Boxcar 2 free, and Boxcar 2 has push for FaceBook as well as Twitter (and email if you use the forwarding service)…but…Boxcar is only free for a single twitter or facebook account. If you have more than one twitter account, or you want to use it for both twitter and fb, there is a charge for each additional account. And it is still a separate app, which has to be generalized to cover a lot of twitter clients, and simply can not be completely integrated with any of them…not the way SimplyTweet’s push is completely and seamlessly implemented within the program.

Tweet view action options

Tweet view action options

When working with individual tweets, Tweetie 2 has an excellent set of options (see the screen capture). At first I thought that the one that I use every day in SimplyTweet is not there. I post the links to my Pic of the Day blogs at least twice a day, and it is very nice to be able to open the first post and simply repost it, sometimes adding “In case U missed it.” SimplyTweet calls this Reposting. Tweetie can actually do exactly the same thing using the Quote Tweet button.

What Tweetie2 does have, that is still, I think, relatively unique, is integration with a lot of external twitter apps and services. This goes well beyond the usual read it later services. It includes TextExpander integration, both send to Tweetie from Expander and in-app snippit expansion within Tweetie…for those addicted to snippets (actually, version 2.5 of SimplyTweet, currently under review as mentioned above, has full TextExpander integration as well). For other examples of other services take a look at the screen shots for the account views and settings (above).

Account view options

Account view options

Tweetie 2 also has intergration with the iPhone’s  Contacts app. You can create a contact from a twitter follow/follower. I can’t think of any reason why you would want to do that, but it is there, and maybe I simply lack imagination.

Little things I like about Tweetie 2:

1) the way it displays a little icon in list view on tweets with image links, and the way it displays a little thumbnail of the image in tweet view.

2) the swipe icon bar with its excellent range of options (see screen shot above), including an action icon that opens up even more options.

3) the ability to display real names or screen names (though only SimplyTweet allows you to display both at the same time).

4) the ability to view DMs from those who DM you in conversation mode, going backwards from the current DM.

5) the In Reply To button in tweet view that allows you to trace a chain of @s back through time (though the Conversation view of @s in SimplyTweet is easier).

6) switching your atvar to the other side of the tweet in list view for your own tweets: kind of like bubble view without the annoying (to me) bubbles.

7) as already mentioned, the little up/down arrows in tweet view that allow you to move tweet to tweet without returning to the list timeline view.

8) the speed at which the app opens and loads your timeline and the responsiveness of all controls (a biggie!).

Still there are reasons, some big, some small, that  SimplyTweet will stay on my iPhone, and Tweetie 2 will, despite my having invested $6 in the app now, be retired to my iTunes library to wait for further upgrades.

Account view, but no view of recent tweets without clicking the link

Account view, but no view of recent tweets without clicking the link

The biggest reason is undoubtedly the fully intergrated, all accounts, push that SimplyTweet handles so well. Close second is SimplyTweet’s easy and excellent  implementation of lists of selected followers. Third is the fact that Tweetie still does not display the number of unread tweets, @s or DMs, and only marks unreads in the DM view.

Then there are little SimplyTweet only touches: the # symbol on the compose screen that allows you to insert the # character without opening the extended keyboard, the way recent tweets are displayed in account views, the Between Us button on account views that calls up recent public exchanges with that follow/follower, the easy conversation views accessible from any tweet (and from the swipe pop-up icon bar), the ability to reply to  multiple tweets (and twits) by selecting them in your time-line list view (great for building #followfriday tweets, among other things), the ability to customize the contents of the swipe icon bar, and to choose one of several themes for the whole app, etc, etc.

So, Tweetie 2 is a good twitter app…even a great twitter app. But, for all that, it will not replace SimplyTweet in the main launch bar at the bottom of my iPhone screen! Not yet.


Written by singraham

October 17, 2009 at 10:41 am