The concept of a paid social network may seem laughable to some, but thousands of App.net supporters have turned this concept into reality. While the initial topic of conversation on App.net was App.net itself, chatter has shifted to everything from technology to Felix Baumgartner’s epic free fall from the edge of Space. The longterm success of the network is questionable, but it’s clear that the increasing quality of conversations housed within the confines of the network will greatly increase its chances.
Adian, by Phrygian Labs, Inc. was the first paid App.net iOS application to breach the walls of the App Store, and it performed extremely well for such a short development cycle. Several months have passed since Adian’s initial release, and App.net’s once barren app landscape has transformed into a lush playground for App.net geekery. There’s now a client for almost every type of user.
How does Adian stand up to the current competition? Is it still a contender for App.net marketshare or has it grown stagnant?
Adian follows the traditional timeline display conventions of most Twitter applications. Swiping a post reveals reply, repost, delete and conversation options. Unlike other star clients, it’s not yet possible to interact with post content directly from the timeline; users must tap a post to access the post view. From the post view, it’s possible to tap mentioned users, links and hashtags. Adian supports native stars and reposts, as well as sharing via Instapaper, Pocket and several other services. The newest version of Adian adds icon badges to the icons in post view, so it’s easy to tell how many replies, reposts and stars a post has received. Long pressing the reply icon takes users to the conversation view, while long pressing the repost and star icons pulls up a list of users who’ve starred and reposted an item.
Despite the excellent shortcuts, the post view is an unnecessary step required to interact with post content. While it’s possible to repost, star or view a conversation by swiping a post, tappable hashtags, mentions and links within the timeline are sorely needed.
Adian may only be the second App.net app to reach the market, but its compose screen was well developed and fully-featured from the start. Adian’s compose menu consists of a post canvas and a useful toolbar that provides access to the mention and hash icons, as well as drafts, link shortening and camera options. The character progress-bar fills as posters reach the 256-character limit, and the remaining characters tick down to zero. The app uses predictive mentions and hashtags, so users don’t have to second guess usernames or commonly used hashtags. Users can also shorten links with bit.ly, but this must be done manually.
Users can post pictures to App.net via FireFoto or Flickr, and photos can be taken directly from the camera roll or with the iPhone camera. There are several filters and features to choose from, which sets Adian apart from the competition. Instagram-like filters lend Adian a bit of hipster cred, and a fuzzy-focus makes ’80’s style glamour shots a reality. In all seriousness, Adian’s use of a custom camera skin and filters shows the developer’s excellent attention to detail. Users can apply a live filter before taking a snapshot and even edit the filter after the shot is taken.
Although there were initially few App.net apps to choose from, Adian is now competing with several powerful contenders. Adian sticks with the traditional experience, while apps like Felix and Rivr sidestep tradition, in favor of an eclectic layout and features that deviate from the norm. Netbot is perhaps the most developed and feature complete app at the moment, but it has years of development behind it, in the form of Tweetbot. Adian once had a clear advantage with native push notifications, but most serious contenders have implemented notifications in recent updates. In short, Adian’s initial advantages are now common features, but the app will still appeal to those looking for a simple, more traditional interface.
Adian Meets the iPhone 5
Adian’s iPhone 5 update is supercharged with additional features, tweaks and improvements. Originally, I lamented over the Accounts button present in the timeline. Account switching may be widely used with Twitter, but App.net’s paid accounts deter users from having multiple. The newest version of Adian replaces the Accounts tab with a More tab. Accounts still live within this tab, but Adian now includes access to a user’s star list and profile, as well as a user and hashtag search. The list feels as though it was implemented at the last minute, combining unrelated features as opposed to dispersing them in more appropriate places within the app.
There’s no clear App.net winner, and there’s a certain amount of tinkering required to find the best app for personal use. It’s hard to review Adian without comparing it to its more creative competitors. These apps set aside traditional Twitter conventions, and Adian would greatly benefit from a departure from the norm. App.net clients shouldn’t mimic Twitter clients, because App.net isn’t bound by the same restrictions. App.net developers have greater freedom with the API, and this should eventually result in features that Twitter developers could only dream of. Adian is both functional and stable, but it simply lacks the visual flare and creativity present in other App.net clients.