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.
A year ago I was happily using Tweetie on the iPhone.
Then the guy who created it, announced that he was creating a new version. He’d changed the colour scheme and I didn’t like the new version, so I stuck with the old version.
Another while longer, and he announces he’s selling up to Twitter – and Tweetie would become the official Twitter application for the iPhone.
Great! Nothing could go wrong there, could it?
And so Twitter for iPhone was born. An official app at last, with the proper backing of the company that created the service. It should almost certainly be better, and have new features included at a much faster rate than before.
It transferred, changed name from Tweetie to “Twitter for iPhone” and while it is undoubtedly a cleaner interface, it really isn’t very good.
I was right about them implementing new features quickly – far too quickly.
When Twitter decided to go from old style RT: or via retweets, to new style retweets, the now-official Twitter app stopped supporting the old method instantly.
Sometimes it’s nice to add a comment/joke to something you’re retweeting. You can “quote tweet” but it’s not the same.
But I was alright – I was happy using the old version of Tweetie from before the sale. Happy that is, right up until it started crashing a lot.
Then when Twitter made some changes to the way you log into the service, Tweetie stopped working altogether. It won’t log in at all.
I was forced to abandon the best Twitter app ever made, and start looking around for an alternative app.
I used this when I first joined Twitter. It made a pleasing twittery-bird noise when you started the app, but I eventually stopped using it, because locations and photo updates were a bit fiddly/non-existent.
I returned to it now, only to find out they have completely screwed the layout.
Where’s all the buttons?
I’m all for a clean interface, but not if that means having to click “benparkatbjs“, every time before I can load anything else. Crap.
And there’s ample space at the bottom of the main screen for some buttons, too. Seems silly not to have included them.
The iPhone version of the full-screen mission-control style interface you get on Mac/PC/Linux.
When it launched, it was heralded as being really quite good.
What makes Tweetdeck so good is just how customisable it is. You can add columns, a quick swipe left or right goes from mentions to the classic Twitter timeline and back again. You can specify keyword searches and save it as a column, for when you’re armchair surfing while watching the apprentice, or another program with a live Twitter debate happening.
It features Retweet new style and retweet “classic” style, and has a dark theme.
However, it keeps crashing on me.
There’s really only so many times I can type a message and have the app crash as I try to send it, before I give up and use something else.
If it could be stabilised to stop it crashing all the time, I might well use Tweetdeck as my main client.
While this ticks a lot of boxes for me, it fails on some things that are so spectacularly silly.
Why is the inbox and outbox for DirectMessages, separate?
When replying to a message, sometimes it can be handy to see the conversation from earlier – to make sure I’m not repeating myself, and in the case of some people who don’t reply quickly – I may well have forgotten what I asked by the time they reply.
I like the dots at the base of the screen, which similarly to Tweetdeck lets you see which screen you’re on.
It suffers from the same problem as Twitbird in the way that if you want to go from the main feed to mentions, you either have to have configured them to be next to each other, swipe multiple times left or right, or exit to the menu to then select the one you want from there.
The “contacts” tab is an unncessary button. If I want to reference them, surely I’d start a new message. From there, there should either be a users list option in there, or to work as Echofon does, where you start typing a message and it guesses who you are referencing.
What the hell were they thinking with this interface?
The buttons at the bottom left are possibly the least helpful things you could need.
From left to right, far left button returns you to the top of the screen. Pointless – just tap the top of the screen and it returns there anyway.
Next along is a tick box. Click it and you get only one option – to mark all as read. Again – surely it could do that automatically when you reach the top of the screen?
The middle button of the flower. What does that do? Probably something urgent that I need regularly.
Set the wallpaper? You’ve got to be kidding me? On the main screen?
How often do I change the background wallpaper, that it needs a button on the main screen?
The funnel-icon is a filter, with options to display all tweets, latest unread or first unread. Just not sure that’s really necessary.
Where’s the option to view my mentions, or see my Direct Messages? How can I see my favorites?
Go left, gives you an option of mentions, direct messages, but it’s a clunky ‘mentions – back – direct messages – back’ sort of menu structure. It’s just a bit poor really.
I won’t lie. What first attracted to me to Echofon is the fact that it looks a bit like the old version of Tweetie. It’s got a sort-of “dark” theme for reading in bed, and has the ability to disable screen rotation (for when you’re reading in bed, and lying on your side, you can tilt the phone sideways without it tilting the words the wrong way from you again).
It has a very handy feature that auto guesses who you’re messaging, as you start typing the username (much like sending an sms on the iPhone). This comes in incredibly handy.
Echofon isn’t perfect either though.
While it supports the iPhone4’s multitasking mode and runs in the background, the Direct Message count never updates properly.
Consequently, I have always received the “direct message from <user>” email from Twitter, a long long long time before Echofon notices (which is rare).
To be even more frustrating, when you reply to a DM sent to you in Echofon, it doesn’t at that point check if you’ve received any messages – so it can look as if you’re constantly messaging someone who isn’t replying to you (which is only very occasionally the case).
Until it crashes.
When it crashes, and you open it again, it will suddenly check the DMs and update them all the right way around.
Another annoyance with this is how clunky it is to get to your favorites.
I favorite things A LOT during the day – especially pictures and video clips – to look at later when I’m not busy working. It is rather annoying to have to click menu, favorites to see them. Then you can’t just swipe one to delete it, you have to click it, then press a tiny yellow star. Not ideal at all.
Preferably, I’d like a button at the top or bottom to link directly to favorites. I very rarely use the “lists” button.
Recently Twitpic have been having some technical difficulties. I either can’t access the site to view pics, or I can’t post anything.
In the options, the only other photo services you can use with Echofon are Tweetphoto or Flickr. It would be nice if it worked with Google Picasa, or had some kind of FTP option to upload photos to my own webspace, as I don’t really like uploading photos to third party sites at all – which you’ll know if you’ve read my post about privacy (to be fair, none of the other apps support either of these options, either).
What none of them can manage.
This new style of retweets that Twitter has adopted makes it really awkward to see if someone has retweeted you.
Why can none of the software clients just show them in the “mentions” tab? If someone is retweeting you, even by the new style, they’re still mentioning you. They should just be combined into one column.
At the moment, I get completely lost looking for whether I’ve been retweeted or not, and it’s nice to know (and thank the person involved) if someone thought the twaddle I’ve just spoken was actually worth retweeting.
Several clients above have a “my tweets retweeted” screen. That’s great, but it doesn’t tell you WHO retweeted them.
They can for tweets others have retweeted. I can see that one of my friends retweeted something that Duncan Bannatyne said. Why can’t I see who retweeted my crappy joke?
For the moment, Echofon is my preferred client as the best all-rounder.
Hootsuite probably second.
It could all change though if Tweetdeck could just make their app stop crashing.