A few days ago, Twitter released an update to their iPhone client. And ruined it. I don’t think that’s too strong – it has less functionality than the old version, and what is there – is more fiddly to get to. Yes it looks pretty, but it’s a chore to use. So it’s time to once again search for a new iPhone client for accessing Twitter when I’m not at home. Today I’m testing Twittelator free, Tweetings lite, Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Echofon free, and Twitter for iPhone.
It’s been a while since I went searching for a new Twitter client (my username has changed), so now – today – this is what I want from a Twitter client:
- Easy to read. Not too big either. If I can only fit two tweets on the screen at once because of poor design or a massive font, this just won’t do.
- Conversation view. Everything has conversation view these days – from Gmail, to the iPhone’s SMS messaging. It’s an obviously better way of seeing messages – as you can see exactly what your mate is replying to, instead of just “@benpark Yeah you’re right about that”, and trying to remember what you were right about. Why then, do some Twitter clients not have this functionality? I tend to use Direct Messages with some people instead of SMS messages, so it’s nice to be able to see them all grouped together, in conversation view – without having to scroll miles to see a conversation with a different person from yesterday.
- Easy access to main feed, @ messages, Direct Messages, and my own favourites. I favourite things to look at later, and it’s nice to have something to read instantly if I have 10 minutes spare. I don’t want to have to keep going back to ‘home’ or whatever, just to switch between @ messages and DMs.
- Multiple accounts. I’ve got two twitter accounts currently. It needs to support them both, but keep them separate, while enabling me to easily switch between them.
- Tweetpress integration. Tweetpress means I can post a picture on Twitter, but instead of that picture going on Twitpic, Yfrog or Mobypicture, and being compressed to hell, surrounded by their adverts, and sending them all the traffic from my interesting picture – the image goes here, on my blog, on my “photos” page. The actual image is saved on the web hosting I pay for, and if I want, one day I can delete the whole lot. I’ve written about this before in another post (apologies for some missing photos), but I also don’t like the way that Twitpic/Yfrog/others have very awkward ways of deleting photos, to make you do it one-at-a-time, to ensure you don’t just switch picture providers anytime you like.
- Mute. This functionality is in things on the desktop like Tweetdeck and Echofon, and is useful to hiding tweets about things I have no interest in. Think #xfactor. I’ve no interest, but on a Saturday night, my main feed is awash with comments about it. Quickly adding it to the mute section means I no longer have to read about it. Also, you can mute users. Why would I want to mute people I’m following? Well, if someone is ordinarily interesting, but is – for one day only – at a boring conference, then I might (for today only) hide all their tweets.
- Push. So it notifies me the second I receive a message. I’ve had issues with apps promising this, but not delivering. It’d be nice, if it worked. If it doesn’t work reliably, then don’t bother.
So let’s begin.
Twitter for iPhone
Twitter for iPhone (aka the official Twitter client) is what I’ve been using for a while now. So why am I switching?
Well it no longer ticks those boxes above. The main feed screen has less options than it used to have, and while it looks a cleaner interface, it also means it’s more fiddly to get to what I want.
That’s great. But where’s my Direct Messages? It turns out it’s under Me -> Direct Messages. That’s only one extra click but I use this feature A LOT.
And when I go to Direct Messages, where it IS grouped in conversation view (good), the only conversation in there is the last person I talked to. The rest appears to be missing, with no obvious way to refresh/add the rest.
Where are my favorites? Well the only way I can find to get to them is to go (from main feed) Me -> View your profile -> Scroll down to the bottom of the page -> click Favorites. That’s a lot of effort to get to a section that used to be accessible with (I think) two taps.
Twitter for iPhone used to have a very easy way of favouriting a tweet. You pressed on the tweet you wanted to favourite, and then slide across. It would give you a selection of options like viewing the person’s account, and favouriting, and you tapped a big star to favourite it. This option has now been removed. The tap+slide does nothing. The way to favourite now is to click the tweet, then click the star, then go back to home. I’m not really a fan of having to keep going back and forth between screens to carry out simple tasks, especially when they had a better way in the last version.
Tweetpress integration has also been removed. I’ve sensed this was going to happen for a while. When I installed the last update, it cleared my Tweetpress setup, and re-set itself back up to use Twitter’s own new photo sharing service. I went in, and set it back to Tweetpress, under the “custom api endpoint” option. Now, that option has been removed altogether. It gives you a variety of other options, but except for (possibly) Posterous, there’s nothing in there that is useful to me for my aim of keeping my photos under my control.
Multiple accounts is another fail. There used to be a button in the top left, from memory, where you could easily switch between accounts. Click button, click other account, and you’re there. The new method is to click Me -> Scroll down (there is a lot of scrolling with this redesign) -> Switch accounts -> Tap other account.
It’s a very poor update. There is still no mute option, I’ve lost functionality I used, and what remains seems to require an extra click or two to get anywhere. It’s a very poor user interface.
Is there anything I do like in it?
I like the fact that the “connect” section will list other people who have started following you, as well as people who have messaged you.
The old version supported push notification for messages (as does the new one), BUT I had repeated issues with this. Typically, it doesn’t notify me until 5-15 minutes after the message is sent. Consequently, if I’m sat at my computer, Direct Messaging someone, they’ll reply, I’ll read it online, 10 minutes later my phone will notify me, I’ll check, yep – I’ve read that message online. I tried contacting Twitter but they didn’t know what was causing it. Deleting/reinstalling the app seemed to make it instant again on one occasion (not on subsequent attempts), but after a few days it went back to being a 5-15minute delay again. While this is annoying when I’m at home sat at my computer, it’s not really any better when I’m out with my phone – as a 5 minute delay between messages makes for a very slow/drawn-out conversation. Maybe Twitter’s internal system for push just isn’t very good?
Terrible name, but the reason I looked at this one next, is because according to my photo-uploading thing Tweetpress, it is one of the few clients that support it. There’s a Free and a Pro version. I’m using the Free, because I’m not paying until I’ve had a chance to try it out.
From the start, I have an issue with the main screen.
The text is quite large, and there’s a lot of white space around everything. Consequently, there are times when you only get 3 tweets on the screen at once. With some Twitter clients, there is the option to vary the size of the text, so I went hunting for this option, only to discover they only offer the option to make the text EVEN BIGGER. I mean just look at this.
Absolutely ridiculous. Do I need a visit to Specsavers? And if I do, how am I meant to read the (now tiny in comparison) menu options at the bottom of the screen?
In fairness, the layout is quite good. Main, Mentions and Direct Messages all accessible with one click from the main screen. To access “favorites” (cursed American spelling as always), it’s More -> scroll down -> Favorites -> My Favorites.
I’m not sure why the last option is there. Who else’s favourites would I think they were? Apparently you can also remove the need for scrolling down, as the pro version allows you to customise, add/remove/reorder the options.
However, when I go to “My Favs” (eugh – hate the shortened version of that word), although I can scroll, I don’t appear to be able to do anything but click the links mentioned. I can’t tap+slide, I can’t retweet them from here. I can’t unfavourite them. All I can do is click the links mentioned (if any), and see who else has retweeted it. That’s a bit odd, isn’t it? Maybe it’s a bug?
While the @ messages are shown in conversation view, Direct Messages are sadly split into received/sent, and individual messages, leaving me to hunt around for which one of my messages my friend was replying to with a message saying “Yikes. Yes.”
Apparently the pro version supports multiple accounts, but the free version doesn’t. I assume that to switch in the pro version, would be More -> then select the name of the account. Not too terrible, as a switching method goes.
Twittelator doesn’t show up in notification center at all, so it probably doesn’t support push either. I can find no mention of it in the feature list on the developer’s website.
There doesn’t seem to be the option to mute hashtags, but there is the option to mute users. Of the two, if I could only have one, I’d rather mute hashtags. People yawning on about the same subject for ages normally use a hashtag for it anyway.
I’ve always been in two minds about Tweetdeck, on both desktop and iPhone. I liked the concept on the iPhone, but last time I tried to become a regular user, it kept crashing on me. I persisted for a couple of days, then gave up with it. On the desktop, it’s handy to be able to add a column of things you’re searching for, but there’s no option to just search for it ONCE and then forget about it. Having to add a column just to quickly see if anyone is talking about something on TV at the moment, is a bit of an irritation.
On first glance at the home screen of Tweetdeck on the iPhone, it seems to immediately fall down on some areas.
Where’s the buttons to access mentions and DMs? Well, the grey and orange bits at the top signify which column you’re on. So if I want to go to mentions, I’d swipe once to the left to scroll to it. Another to the left takes me to DMs. While this seems cumbersome to start with, there are SOME advantages for this. For one, you can set them in any order you like. If you use DMs a lot, it can be one swipe. You can add “Favorites” as a column all of its own.
You can click a tweet then star it to favourite it, and then scroll to the favourites column to unstar it. You can also retweet/reply when viewing the thing you’ve favourited.
When adding a second account, it becomes a bit confusing though. You either end up hitting the “+”, then the name of the account, then picking say..timeline, which gets you JUST that. No scrolling left/right available. You have to go back then pick something else, to get to say – mentions. You can add the column to the main screen, but then you have it listed along with your first account. Meaning (if you added the normal columns you would want), you’d have to swipe 3-4 times to go from home screen on one account to home screen on the other. Add the mentions and DMs from your second account, and you’re up to 7-8 columns already, which is a lot of swiping left/right for just two accounts.
It gets worse, because when you tap to do a new message, it defaults to sending it from the first account, no matter what column you’re on. I know my own ability, and know full well that when I’m half asleep, I would end up tweeting the wrong messages from the wrong account.
I don’t see that it does push, there’s no conversation view in DMs (although the inbox and outbox are thankfully merged), there’s no support for custom image uploading (the only options are yfrog, twitpic and mobypicture), and the colour scheme of black (and lots of it) can’t be changed. The only options in the settings section are for font size, and to change between different image upload services. I’m sure this used to have the option to mute hashtags or users (the desktop version does), but it’s either no longer there, or just well hidden – as I can’t find it.
A lot of the reviews of the current version of Tweetdeck on iPhone in the app store, are 1 stars, mostly due to it consistently crashing. Given this is the problem I had with it back a year or so ago when I last tried to use it, that’s not great really.
I’ve also got an issue with the swiping left/right. If you do it slightly off-horizontally, it seems to recognise a side swipe as a scroll up/down. That’s annoying.
Given that Tweetdeck is now owned by Twitter, maybe they’re going to incorporate some features into their main client and then kill it completely.
I’ve tried this before too. From memory, there used to be a free and a paid version. Now there seems only to be a free version. Good news.
My first irritation straight away is having to create a Hootsuite account. It’s fairly simple, but you can’t just log in with your Twitter username/password like every other client. That done, I’m presented with a list of “Streams”. So pick home feed for @BenPark, and I’m into a Tweetdeck-style system of swiping left/right to get to different sections.
At any point you can click “streams”, then pick mentions, DMs, etc. I’m not a big fan of this type of back/forth menu system, but it’s quite straightforward as far as such a system goes, I guess. It’s a shame they wasted an icon on a button to update your current location (presumably for Foursquare users), and really “settings” could be under “More” with the other things you don’t need every day. That would give them space to put buttons for Mentions and DMs in. It’s also a shame you can modify the streams list, but not the icons that are shown at the bottom of the main feed.
With separate accounts, comes separate sets of streams. So with your first account, you can swipe left/right between sections. To get to the other account, you have to click streams, and pick one from your other account. It does at least keep the two accounts separate.
When you click to compose a message, depending on which account you’re viewing, it tweets from that account – so exactly what you would expect/hope to happen. This would prevent you from ever tweeting the wrong message from the wrong account.
I can find nowhere that lets you choose which image upload service to use, so can only assume it uses Twitter’s own. Not great to have no option at all, really.
There are a lot of options for graphs, social media monitoring, etc. but I can’t find anywhere to mute hashtags or visibly hide things. It has a lot of support for Facebook, and Foursquare, but that’s nothing I’d use/need.
There’s no push advertised (is it impossible to find these days?) and it doesn’t even show up in the notification center.
It is at least consistent. It’s back to streams -> Favorites to get to that. It’s back to streams -> DMs, to get to those. Tap a tweet and there’s the option to favorite it (or unfavorite it, if you’ve already done so). It’s all very obvious and easy to understand, just not particularly quick for regular users.
DMs are not in conversation view.
I’ve tried this before, and I like Echofon on the Mac. On the Mac it lets you mute both hashtags and users, and it has both mentions and DMs in conversation view. And it has all these functions on the iPhone version too.
The Home screen has everything I would hope for, including tweets in a good size/spacing, with 4 tweets on a screen (and probably more on the paid version, without the adverts wasting space), one click to get to mentions, one click to get to DMs. Lists, I don’t use very much (who does?)
Where’s the favorites? Assuming you’re scrolled to the top of the screen, it’s Menu -> Favorites. If that’s the only one I have to do it for, that’s not bad. To unfavorite, you click something then click the tiny yellow star. You can also reply/retweet from here too.
Officially, the app supports push, but I’ve tried (and failed) to get that to work before. It just doesn’t work. I deleted and reinstalled the app last night, took out and put back all the options for push notifications, and it still doesn’t work. Until I access the app, it doesn’t check to see if I have new messages or mentions. This really isn’t great, to be honest. I’d rather have no functionality, than functionality that clearly doesn’t work. I’m not the only one – as a lot of the reviews on the app store are complaining it doesn’t work too.
Apparently the Mac app can sync with the iPhone app, meaning you don’t get the same messages twice. Whichever one you read them on, it marks them as read on the other. So you don’t spend the day with the phone, go home and open the Mac version to be told you have 50 new DMs – all of which you’ve read already on your phone. Which is nice. I’ve not had a chance to test if this actually works yet.
It supports multiple accounts, and they’re both kept separate. Tap Menu -> then which account you want – to access it. Your accounts are listed at the very top of the menu page, so there’s very little scrolling.
Sadly, it doesn’t support Tweetpress. As far as photo uploading goes, it only supports Twitter’s own, Lockerz and Twitpic. And it offers options for resizing your images to either 640×480 (which is quite small nowadays, isn’t it?), 1024×768 or the device’s original size. If your device is an iPhone4 or 4s, the “original size” is absolutely enormous. So you’ve got a choice between small, meh, or MASSIVE. I would have liked a bit more in there, but it’s the only one I’ve seen give you any options at all, so well done to them for that. When I’m emailing pictures from my phone, I care more about kb file size, than I do about image size, though obviously not everyone using an iPhone would have any clue about whether 350kb would be better than 35kb or whether 2.6mb would be an acceptable size to email.
This is the plucky new one. It’s the only one from this list that I’d never heard of, until I was moaning (on Twitter) about the new iPhone Twitter app being absolute shite, and someone I chat to (@slicknic) mentioned it.
As with all the others, I’m testing the free/lite version.
The first problem I’ve noticed as I open it, is that it marks everything as unread.
So I’ve got 15 DM messages unread. When I go to it, they’re listed in conversation view, but no matter how many of them I open or scroll past, I still have 15 unread. No amount of double tapping or tapping and holding seems to give me an option to mark them as read. I went into one of the conversations, clicked one it reckoned was unread, and it reckoned I’d read them all. But go back to DM list, and I’ve got 10 unread now. I’m not sure what the hell that is about. By opening other conversations and clicking them at random, I managed to get it to 6 unread, somehow, but can’t get it any lower. It reckoned I had 18 mentions unread. Again, no obvious ‘mark all as read’ option. I opened it, scrolled up and down the same list a few times, and it counted down one by one, until it reckoned I’d read them all.
There’s no obvious ‘mark as read’ button, but after hunting around in the options, I found there’s one that clears it when you change tabs. That problem = solved.
I like the fact it previews images full width, like this:
It looks cool. I’m not sure how useful it is, but it’s cool nonetheless. You can also swap this to have a more traditional thumbnail instead, if you like.
You can access main, mentions, DMs from the main screen. “Favourites” (must be a British app, as it has the proper spelling) are under More -> Favourites. You can unfavourite, reply and retweet after clicking one.
There is also a tap+slide system of favouriting like the one that used to work on the official Twitter app. Good job, Tweetings.
The paid version has push support (sadly not available in the free version I’m testing), but as with the official Twitter for iPhone app, the person who mentioned this to me, said there can be a delay of around 7 minutes before the app notifies you of new messages. I can’t test multiple accounts either, as this is also a paid feature.
It supports custom image uploading, which is a surprise, as they don’t really mention this functionality. It says that the “API endpoint must support Twitpic or Yfrog style responses over oAuth Echo”. Whether Tweetpress does that or not, I have no idea, but it’s a promising start, requiring a little bit of research.
I can see no obvious way of muting users or hashtags, but to be fair, I didn’t have this before on the old Twitter client.
Echofon I feel I know really well, and it allows me to mute #xfactor (and other national conversations like big sporting events, conferences, police inquiries, etc.) that I might have no interest in. But push doesn’t work (at least not on the free version – there’s surprisingly a lot less complaints about the paid version so maybe that one is fine), and it doesn’t support uploading images the way I want. I like the idea of it syncing with the application I’m using on my Mac too.
Tweetings sounds like it ticks every box except muting, and includes (possibly) Tweetpress support. But I’ll get no chance to test multiple accounts or push until I’ve paid for it.
I’m wondering whether there’s any other way to do picture uploads that don’t go to Twitpic/Yfrog/whoever, other than using Tweetpress, due to the severe lack of support for it on apps. Some sort of email -> WordPress -> tweet notification (of posts tagged as mobile photos)…option maybe, that I haven’t discovered yet, perhaps.
I’m still waivering between Echofon and Tweetings right now. I’m going to buy both and give them a good run to find out.
Update: After installing the paid version of Tweetings, I can confirm that there IS the option to mute keywords, hashtags, users or clients. Well done Tweetings.