iPhone Life magazine

Twitter on the iPhone

Which Twitter app is best for you?

Twitter has been up and running for over three years, and we have had mature iPhone apps supporting Twitter for just over one year. It’s safe to say that Twitter took a big leap when the first crop of iPhone apps came out allowing people with limited SMS accounts to join the fun. As we enter the summer of 2009, the number of Twitter apps for the iPhone has grown, offering plenty of options.

Twitter: much more than tweets!

Twitter began as a simple concept and for the most part remains one. You create messages of less then 140 characters each and post them for anyone to read. These posted messages are known as “tweets.” People who subscribe to (follow) your feed can read your tweets, and anyone doing a search on text contained in one of your messages will find it. In addition, you can use Twitter to send a private tweet between you and someone else who is following you, which is referred to as a “direct message.” You can also search the twitter stream for something, or for yourself, which is called a “reply” or a “mention.”

As I started working on this article, I was impressed (and quickly overwhelmed) by the number of Twitter-related apps available for the iPhone and iPod touch. Most of them do all the basic Twitter things and the major apps let you post images, provide search capability, and support multiple Twitter accounts. Some of them will even load video and sound. This article will not attempt to provide an exhaustive list of these apps, nor am I going to rate them from best to worst. Instead, I’ll attempt to describe the different types of Twitter users out there and give you a couple of examples of apps that might be suitable for them. For this article, I’m going to divide them into three categories: new users, casual users, and power users.

New users look for basic, easy-to-use apps

In most cases, the new user is looking for a simple, free app that does the basics. User interface preferences are largely a matter of personal taste, thus one UI design is rarely “better” than another. However, two design principles are important. First, an easy-to-use UI should not be crowded with symbols or icons. An experienced user may understand them, but they can confuse a less experienced person. Second, the application’s features should not be buried deep in multiple screens and menu levels. As many options as possible should be easily accessible. With these points in mind, let’s look at a few apps that belong in this category.

Casual users want easy-to-use apps with a few extras

As new users gain experience with Twitter, they may want to do a little (or a lot) more with the service. I call these slightly more experienced users that may user twitter a few times a day, “casual users.” They would still prefer a clean and simple interface, but they’re more interested in extra features. They may want the ability to upload photos, use location-aware features, check out trends, do advanced searches, and track multiple Twitter accounts. Fortunately, there are many great apps that provide most of these features.

Casual users want easy-to-use apps with a few extras

As new users gain experience with Twitter, they may want to do a little (or a lot) more with the service. I call these slightly more experienced users that may user twitter a few times a day, “casual users.” They would still prefer a clean and simple interface, but they’re more interested in extra features. They may want the ability to upload photos, use location-aware features, check out trends, do advanced searches, and track multiple Twitter accounts. Fortunately, there are many great apps that provide most of these features.

Power users want desktop features in the palm of their hand

Typical Twitter power users want multiple account support, a powerful saved search feature, integration with other social network services like Facebook or FriendFeed, conversation threading, trends, Instapaper, selection of third-party services, and more. Of course, developing such a feature-rich app costs a lot, so you can pretty much forget free solutions without advertising. But there are a couple of good commercial apps for the power user.

How do you use Twitter?

In this article, I’ve mentioned just a few of the over 30 Twitter-related titles found in the App Store. With the recent increase in Twitter’s popularity, I’m sure we’ll see more apps soon. Everyone uses Twitter a bit differently, so if someone recommends a Twitter application to you, find out how that person uses it. For example, some people spend most of their time reading other people’s tweets. For them, grouping capability and advanced search is highly useful. Others tend to post quite often, so media uploading and conversation threading is more desirable.

More features coming soon

With the release of the new iPhone 3GS, we’re already starting to see new functionality incorporated into Twitter apps. An example of this is found in the latest version of Twittelator Pro, which now includes video upload capability. Given their experience with the iPhone, I fully expect to see many of the current video streaming sites like Qik, uStream, Kyte and Flixwagon to offer something new for iPhone 3GS users. If fact, most of the better Twitter apps will probably incorporate some sort of simple video capture and post capability.

In addition, since the enhanced camera on the 3GS captures higher resolution images, we’ll probably see more effective image compression incorporated into many of these apps. (If you’re in an area without 3G, you don’t want to wait all day to upload an image via an EDGE connection.)

New apps or new versions of existing apps will also make it easier to take advantage of the iPhone’s voice recording capabilities. Two apps, TweetMic and VR+, have already been updated to do that. Both allow you to record and publish voice memos to Twitter. I’m also looking forward to seeing third-party apps that convert voice to text. And with the improved GPS and camera capabilities of the new iPhones, we can expect to see apps that will do a better job of integrating location awareness with the Twitter experience.

With the release of the iPhone 3GS and OS 3.0, we'll be seeing more new and improved Twitter apps. I'm sure plenty of people will have something to say about them, so I will post this article on my blog (perivision.net/wordpress/?p=1822). People can post comments there about new apps and enhancements to existing ones, and you can check them out and decide which Twitter app is best for you!

Additional Twitter Apps

As I mentioned in the article, there are over 30 Twitter apps available in the App Store. Below is a partial listing of apps not mentioned in the article. If you like to tweet, check the App Store on a regular basis.

Gyazickr (Free; new and some casual users): Perfect for people with a penchant for amateur photography, Gyazickr is a simple app that lets you take a photo using the iPhone camera or pick one from the camera roll, add a caption, and twitter it.

iTweets ($0.99; new users): This one’s an ultra-simple app with an SMS-influenced design, well suited to the infrequent tweeter. It lacks photo-support, trends, and search capability. There are better apps than this available for free.

JustUpdate (Free; new users): This app has no follower feed, no friends, and no other features: just a text box that lets you post directly to Twitter. It’s a simple and efficient way to tell the world about the sandwich you just ate for lunch.

Tweetsville ($3.99; casual and some power users): There’s no location-based functionality or multiple accounts in this one, but it does have trends, re-tweeting, the ability to search for favorites, and more. The default UI has a polished box-style design, but you have the option of changing it to a Tweetie/iChat bubble design. Nice app, but the $4 price tag is a bit steep.

Twitterena ($0.99; power users). This one has everything you’d expect from a full-featured Twitter client, including search with save, trends, an in-line browser, and fully integrated GPS functionality. All of its features are integrated into a polished user interface; a fantastic value.

Twitfire (Free; casual and some power users): Like JustUpdate, Twitfire is focused on posting tweets. The app incorporates a mini-browser for posting links, GPS-button for location tweets, and access to the iPhone camera for posting photos—all wrapped up in a minimalist icon-driven interface.

Twittervision (Free; new and casual users): This app lets you post and read tweets, but its most impressive feature lets you see the location of tweets as they happens, on a world map. The map feature is hypnotic and fun, but not very useful in the long run.

Additional Twitter Apps

As I mentioned in the article, there are over 30 Twitter apps available in the App Store. Below is a partial listing of apps not mentioned in the article. If you like to tweet, check the App Store on a regular basis.

NatsuLion

NatsuLionNatsuLion is a simple, basic, and relatively fast Twitter application. It does not have photo upload or GPS location capability, groups, or the ability perform searches—that’s what I like about it! It covers all the basics and has a few nice tricks (like shaking the screen to hide navigation controls, conversation threading, and showing the original messages when writing a reply). It even offers two color schemes: light background for daytime viewing, and dark background for night.

 

 

 

 

 
 

 


NatsuLion
; iphone.natsulion.org

TwitterFon

TwitterFonTwitterFon has a few more features than NatsuLion, but it still has a simple and easy-to-use interface. Additional features include the ability to upload images, search on tweets, and display tweets near you. Although you might not consider these basic features, even new users may want to do a little more than read and post basic tweets after a few weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 


TwitterFon
; twitterfon.net

Twinkle

Twinkle

Twinkle is an old favorite and still a good example of what a casual user would want. It includes a simple UI and the ability to upload images and find local tweeters; it even allows access to Facebook. My only complaint is that you have to have a Tapulus account to use it.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Twinkle

twitterfon.net

LaTwit

LaTwitLaTwit has the features a casual user would want, but the UI is strange. If you like being different, you may appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

LaTwit; latwit.mac65.com

TweetDeck

TweetDeckTweetDeck does not have as many features as Twinkle or LaTwit, but it’s a winner because of its next generation UI and ability to sync with the desktop version of the app. You can create groups in the desktop version and have them show up on the iPhone version. In addition, the UI and sounds on both the iPhone and desktop versions are similar, giving you a sense of continuity and making it easier to switch from one to the other.

 

 

 

 

 


 


TweetDeck; tweetdeck.com

Twittelator Pro

Twittelator Pro

There is only one uber app available at the moment—Twittelator Pro. This app lets you record, edit, and tweet audio and video clips, create drafts and tweet off line, handle multiple Twitter accounts, post maps of your location and find nearby tweeters, conduct and save advanced searches, and much more. There are so many features that it takes a while to learn your way around this app. But power users will get used to it quickly enough.

Although Twittelator Pro is the most powerful of all iPhone Twitter apps I’ve seen so far, it’s not perfect. For example, it does not have extensive conversation threading like that found in Twitterena, and it doesn’t show replies as NatsuLion does. The lesson: Power users may need more that one Twitter app to do everything they want.


Twittelator Pro

 

Gyazickr

Perfect for people with a penchant for amateur photography, Gyazickr is a simple app that lets you take a photo using the iPhone camera or pick one from the camera roll, add a caption, and twitter it.

Gyazickr; (Free; new and some casual users);

iTweets

An ultra-simple app with an SMS-influenced design, well suited to the infrequent tweeter. It lacks photo-support, trends, and search capability. There are better apps than this available for free.


iTweets
; ($.99; new users)

JustUpdate

This app has no follower feed, no friends, and no other features: just a text box that lets you post directly to Twitter. It's a simple and efficient way to tell the world about the sandwich you just ate for lunch.

JustUpdate; (Free; new users)

Tweetsville

There's no location-based functionality or multiple accounts in this one, but it does have trends, re-tweeting, the ability to search for favorites, and more. The default UI has a polished box-style design, but you have the option of changing it to a Tweetie/iChat bubble design. Nice app, but the $4.00 price tag is a bit steep.
 

Tweetsville

($3.99; casual and some power users)

Twitterena

This one has everything you'd expect from a full-featured Twitter client, including search with save, trends, an in-line browser, and fully integrated GPS functionality. All of its features are integrated into a polished user interface; a fantastic value.


Twitterena
; ($.99; power users).

Twitfire

Like JustUpdate, Twitfire is focused on posting tweets. The app oncorporates a mini-browser for posting links, GPS-button for location tweets, and access to the iPhone camera for posting photos—all wrapped up in a minimalist icon-driven interface.


Twitfire
; (Free; casual and some power users);

Twittervision

This app lets you post and read tweets, but its most impressive features lets you see the location of tweets as they happen, on a world map. The map feature is hypnotic and fun, but not very useful in the long run.


Twittervision; (Free; new and casual users);