Over the past year, Twitter has managed to transform itself from a very basic service that allows you to send updates of 140 characters, to a full fledged and blossoming industry with supporting websites, applications, and services. When some recent studies showed that Twitter’s traffic was on the way down, people automatically jumped to the conclusion that the “Twitter phase” was over. This was of course not the case. The reason Twitter.com’s numbers were all the way down is because people were not using the Web interface, but rather they were accessing their Twitter stream via the API using one of many available applications such as Tweetdeck or Seesmic.
The Twitter guys did not plan on sitting back and letting their traffic get stolen from under their noses, so they jumped in the ring. They created lists to compete with the Groups feature found in various applications. They also enabled a native retweet button to compete with all of the available 3rd party applications. The latest development is that Twitter is now offering their very own official mobile apps on both BlackBerry and iPhone.
I have tried to use the BlackBerry app and I wanted to love it, but there were just too many issues. Some of those problems were solved in the newest release, but there still is no comparing the BlackBerry Twitter app to UberTwitter.
As for iPhone Twitter apps, this is a long and complicated story, but let me just say this, the fact that I have yet to encounter an app as good as Ubertwitter for the iPhone, with all its 200,000 apps is just very ironic. I have tried them all, and they all fall short on one or more points. I was a big fan of Echofon back when it was Twitterfon, but the latest version with all its bugs makes it completely unusable. I have also tried Twitteriffic, Twittelator, Brizzly, Tweetings, and Twitbird, and they all left me looking for that perfect iPhone Twitter app. Oh, I also used Tweetie 1, but never tried Tweetie 2, the app that was eventually going to be bought out by Apple and rebranded as the official Twitter iPhone app.
As soon as the free Tweetie, or Tweetie 3 was released, I downloaded and installed it. Just like Twitter for BlackBerry, I wanted to love it and have it replace Tweetdeck as my default Twitter app on iPhone, but I was disappointed. In fact, just five minutes after trying it for the first time, I closed the app for the last time.
While Twitter for iPhone is packed with features such as multiple accounts, inline retweeting, photo attachment, and URL shortening, there are some very basic features missing that makes the app a waste of a really nice UI and user experience.
The following is a list of things missing from the new Twitter for iPhone app:
- Traditional RT: OK Twitter, we get it, you want people retweeting your way, but disabling the feature that allows people to choose as well as removing anything that starts with RT from search results, that is just wrong. There have been many articles and discussions written about the new Vs. old style of retweeting, but from my perspective, the new RT offered by Twitter defeats the whole purpose of retweeting. Yes, retweeting someone allows you to pass on interesting information, but more importantly, it helps create relationships of give and take, whereby I retweet someone, and they are more inclined to return the favor in the future.
Many people on Twitter have never used the new RT button once and almost all apps give you the choice of which way you want to retweet. The new Twitter for iPhone is the only app I have encountered that forces you to use the new and native RT. Yes, there is the “quote tweet” option, and you can do that, remove the quotation marks and add the characters RT in the beginning or Via at the end, but that just takes way too long when you are doing it tens if not hundreds of times on a weekly basis. With no way to RT my friends the way people like it, the new Twitter for iPhone is a no go for me. Using the new RT button, you do not even know when someone retweets you without going and checking, since it does not appear in your mentions, like the old RT did.
- Icon Replacement: Some of the more advanced Twitter apps I have used allow you to customize what icons show up on the bottom of the app. If, for example, you want to leave the default All Friends, Replies, DMs, Search, and More, that is your choice, but if you want a button that brings up your profile, recent tweets, lists, or anything else, you have that choice. Not in the new Twitter for iPhone. You are stuck with the default, which in my opinion, is inconvenient.
- Lists: This is the biggest deal breaker for me, and the reason I use Tweetdeck on iPhone, PC, and Mac. Twitter did a great job with their new list functionality, and I, like many others, have become completely dependent on my lists. Let me explain. I follow close to ten thousand people, many of whom tweet things that in 90% of cases, do not interest me. So, why do I follow them? Good question, but that is a conversation for another time. Basically, if I were to only follow people that tweeted about my main interests, I would be following a few hundred people, which would put my following/follower ratio at something like 1:100. Not only does that not look good on my profile, but that would deem me one of those annoying anti social people on Twitter.So I follow a lot of people, but there is no way I can follow tweets of 10,000 people, so I created a list. A list of my favorite people on Twitter. I added a column in Tweetdeck of that list and most of my time on Twitter is spent following that list. I did the same thing in Ubertwitter and Echofon, and have one click access to my list of favorite people. In the new Twitter for iPhone, there is list integration, but as I mentioned above, I cannot add an icon to enable me access to my list in one click. It takes 3-4 presses to access a list depending where I am in the app. That is 2-3 extra presses every time I open the app. That is what is called a #FAIL. (if you are on Twitter, you recognize that hashtag, and if you are not, then just pretend it says “failure”)
- Icon: OK, after I mentioned the list issue, which is for me, the most important feature missing, this one is the least important, but still worth mentioning. One of the biggest advantages of Tweetie was its aesthetics. Everything about it was just nice looking. Comes along the rebranding and all of a sudden, you are looking at an icon that you associate with Twitter spam. The icon for the new app is the same icon that appears when someone does not add a picture to their Twitter profile. You know who generally does not bother to add a picture? Spammers. So, 95% of the spam I get on Twitter is accompanied by the same picture as that representing the official Twitter app? Talk about a bad image for your brand!
- iPad: There is no iPad version of the official Twitter app, need I go on?
- Numbers: Lastly, one of the things I like about Echofon is that when you open the app, you can see exactly how many tweets, replies, or DMs you missed. On the new Twitter iPhone app, it just shows a little icon next to the column letting you know there are new messages, but no indication of how many. Not the biggest deal in the world, but something that just makes you wonder why Twitter left this out.
In conclusion, there are so many different Twitter apps from which to choose on iPhone, that a mediocre app, which is what this is, is not going to pose any serious competition against the big boys. I am sure a new version will be released soon as well as an iPad app, but I just do not understand why Twitter did not wait to release the best app on the App Store, before making the app available to the public.
What do you think of the official Twitter app for iPhone? What app do you use? Is this app going to change that? Please let us know in the comments.