July 29, 2008 |
The iPhone has developed the same culture of Twitteritis that the rest of the Web has in the two-and-a-half weeks since the launch of the App Store and the iPhone 3G . Everyone wants to build the perfect Twitter application, but with so many to choose from, which one do you choose?
Twitterific would seem to be the odds-on favorite to win. Already established on the desktop, the blue bird’s move to the iPhone was both logical and expected. Not only does the iPhone version look virtually identical to its desktop sibling, but The Iconfactory has already monetized the app with two versions. The free version shows a single ad at the top of your Twitter updates. For $9.99, users can upgrade to the Premium version, getting an extra theme and removal of ads. Twitterific allows you to post photos directly from the app, but it doesn’t take advantage of any of the iPhone 3G’s new bells and whistles. I’m still curious about Twitterific’s choice of brown in the default theme. It’s possible that they added that simply to get users to pay the $10 to replace the theme. In its free form, however, Twitterific is completely functional, although limited in the amount of history you can pull in. It’s fine for a quick look or near-constant Twitter use, but if you are the type of user who checks in only a few times a day, you may be disappointed.
Twittelator from Big Stone is a newer entrant in the Twitter client space. The color scheme makes Twittelator look a lot like Twitterific, but forgoes the ad in their free app. Twittelator takes advantage of the iPhone 3G’s GPS feature, auto-locating the phone and letting you post maps of your current location, but some of the other features are either missing or a bit annoying. To switch between views (for instance, with friends vs. archives), you have to exit back out to the menu screen and select the new view. The “Help!” button, however, is by far the most annoying. Jumping on the bandwagon started when an American Tweeted that he’d been arrested (and no, his Tweet didn’t free him, but the call to his lawyer did), the bright yellow exclamation mark auto-generates a Tweet that says “This is an emergency! Help!” with a map of your current location (feel free to add a picture of you in a jail cell for added fun). With kids who regularly touch my iPhone, that’s a feature I really don’t want, but others may agree that being anywhere with four kids is an emergency. Of all the Twitter apps I tested, Twittelator was most likely to crash, bringing down my entire iPhone with it, but an update has since been posted to the App Store which may fix the crashes. It may also fix the link issue; while Twittelator claims to have a built-in browser for openings links in Tweets, I wasn’t ever able to open any of them. With so much competition in this space, it was an instant fail for Twittelator, which got deleted from my iPhone quickly.
The third entrant in the iPhone Twitter client contest is Twinkle, which also takes advantage of the iPhone 3G’s GPS feature. In addition to allowing the full set of Twitter features as well as picture attachments, Twinkle will determine your current location and find recent Twitter messages posted within a specified distance of your current location, a handy feature for those at conferences or looking to find other social-media-addicted people. Of the apps reviewed, Twinkle wins for prettiest UI, with a night sky background, easier-on-the-eyes softly-colored message bubbles, and nice, large buttons on the pop-up menus for accessing functions like direct messages, profiles, and following. The navigation buttons are clear and easy to understand, and red numeric indicators pop up to let you know you have new messages in a window. It’s especially helpful for me as I frequently forget to check for replies and direct messages.
Like some of the other apps, Twinkle is also prone to crashing, and Tapulous (also the creator of the popular Tap Tap Revenge from the 5 Useless iPhone Apps article) is promising to release an updated version of Twinkle soon. I’m not convinced it’s worth waiting for, but Twinkle is my husband’s winner in the space.
The last real iPhone app is GPS Twit from Raizlabs Corporation. If there is such a thing as too simple, then GPS Twit has found it. Separating out just the location feature of Twinkle and Twittelator with a simple posting mechanism, GPS Twit has virtually no user instructions. Entering your Twitter credentials in the settings doesn’t give you a save option, and posting an update doesn’t let you read any other posts. It’s jarring (especially after looking at every other Twitter app available in the App Store), and with so few features, I can’t find any use for it at all. Users are accustomed to a much more user-friendly experience, as well as a feature-rich app. Single-use apps aren’t desireable on a device that doesn’t allow apps to run in the background, and GPS Twit stayed on my iPhone only long enough to get a screencap.
Of course, you can always use Twitter using Mobile Safari, but the Web version on the iPhone is cramped and ugly. So what are we left with? The best app of all the iPhone Twitter apps that I tried isn’t really an iPhone app at all, but rather, a nicely designed mobile web site: Hahlo . It’s a shame Twitter couldn’t figure out on their own how to create Hahlo for mobile users instead of the mess they serve, because I find Hahlo to be the best way to use Twitter on the iPhone, even with all the apps that have been released. It has a clean design, full feature functionality, and best of all, I can check my web mail, FriendFeed, and Twitter all without having to switch back and forth between all the different apps. I need to be able to multi-task when I’m on mobile, and Hahlo is the nicest option for allowing me to do that. iPhone apps are great for games and other functionality, but when it comes to my usual social media use, the Web apps are clearly leaving the iPhone apps in the dust.