Twitter recently shocked the developer world by abandoning their own lackluster iPhone app and acquiring Atebits in order to get their hands on Tweetie, an award winning app that has received incredibly high acclaim.
Users rejoiced, developers felt threatened, and Atebits founder Loren Brichter landed a job on the Twitter mobile team. Now the dust has settled and Tweetie has been rebranded and relaunched as simply “Twitter.” The biggest upside is that the app is now free and rumor has it, the upcoming update to the Mac app will follow suit.
Today we’ll go over Twitter for iPhone from the ground up for those not familiar with Tweetie. For those that are, we’ll point out the changes and upgrades along the way.
Use Twitter Without an Account?
One of the features Twitter seems to be boasting a lot about is the ability to use Twitter without an account. This is a decent option for someone not quite sure what Twitter is all about or just looking to get a feel for the app quickly without signing in.
Basically what you get here is the access to the app’s search page. Here you can search for tweets containing keywords, browse trending topics and investigate the “Suggested Users” section where popular tweeters are divided into categories. Stop by the entertainment category and you’ll find Bill Cosby, Neil Patrick Harris, Danny Devito, Tom Cruise, John Cusack, Jim Carrey and a host of other famous celebrities dishing out either daily hilarity or ceaseless political rants.
If you’re signed into Twitter, the suggested users category is a great way to quickly find tons of people to follow no matter what your interests are. If you’re not a Twitter user, you can now sign up for the service right in the iPhone app.
The Tweet Stream
Once you’ve decided to either sign into your existing account or drink the Kool-Aid and join Twitter, you’re taken to the main interface where your Twitter timeline takes center stage.
To refresh the timeline, you simply pull the page down and any new Tweets will load automatically. Atop the timeline sits a search box that applies to only tweets resident in your timeline (i.e. it’s not a global search). I really like this feature and hope that the next version of Tweetie/Twitter for Mac implements the same functionality.
Tapping on a tweet will slide you to a simple page showing who the tweet is from and providing a number of options for responding to or sharing a Tweet. You can reply to the tweet, mail it, translate it, favorite it, quote it, post a link to it, or ReTweet it. The Twitter app supports both the new official ReTweeting of a tweet and the older way, which simply reposts the tweet followed by “via username.”
Even better than tapping on a Tweet to bring up another page is the ability to simply swipe across a tweet to bring up the various sharing options right in your timeline. This makes it super quick to reply or repost a tweet and return to browsing your timeline.
Composing a Tweet
When you’re ready to create a 140 character masterpiece of your own, just tap the compose button in the top right of the screen to bring up the following window.
From here you can take/add a photo, geotag your tweet, lookup a user, add a hashtag and shrink URLs while composing your tweet. There’s also a handy character count to make sure you’re staying inside the limit. Tapping the character count icon will toggle between the keyboard view and extra options view shown above.
When you tap a tweet in your timeline, you have the option to visit the profile of the person that tweeted it. From here you can view typical stats such as followers, following, tweets, favorites, lists, etc.
You can also get a look at their timeline, @replies, and favorites. The most unique feature however is the integration with your iPhone address book. Tapping the little silhouette icon on the top right of a profile page allows you to add the profile to an existing contact or create a new one.
Navigation and Other Features
Back on the main screen you have a row of five buttons on the bottom of the screen to help you quickly access all the primary Twitter features. From here you’re one tap away from replies, DMs and the search/user suggestion screen we saw above.
When there are unseen Tweets in any section, a little light appears under the navigation icon for that section.
As you can see in the screens above, the replies share the same basic interface as your timeline while DMs have more of an iChat bubble look. The page break in the picture on the left is a great little interface tidbit that appears to show you where the gap lies between messages you’ve viewed and those you haven’t.
The More Tab
Tapping the “More” tab will bring up a screen with access to your profile, favorites, drafts, lists and account settings.
Under the profile section you can actually edit your profile (another feature I haven’t seen in other apps). It’s also nice to have access to Twitter lists (both yours and others). Most newer apps have integrated these but there are a few that lag behind.
Under “Accounts and Settings” you can setup multiple accounts and easily switch between them. You can also tweak minor settings such as font size, date format and whether to display the username or real name of the owner of a tweet.
Finally, shown above in the screen on the right are the advanced settings for the app. Here you can set interface preferences like image quality, pinstripes and sound effects and turn on advanced features like Mobilizer, which turns any web page you view in the app into a mobile-optimized site.
Impressions and Conclusions
Many of the improvements from the previous version of Tweetie are fairly minor such as better integrated search options and subtle interface tweaks. However, as the app is now officially owned by Twitter, it seems to have a bit of an unfair advantage with the level of integration it enjoys with Twitter.com. This results in the ability to interact with your Twitter account in ways that might not even be possible in third party apps (I’m no developer so I’m not entirely sure about what’s possible with the API).
The result here is the most fully featured, ad-less, free Twitter app available for the iPhone. The interface is beautiful, intuitive and features lots of smooth animations and eye candy, the functionality is excellent, and the app seems to run just fine without any long delays or frequent crashes.
As far as complaints, as a dedicated Twitterrific user I’d love to see some extra theme options here, especially something with a dark timeline. Also, as far as I can tell, push notifications are still strangely lacking so if you like to be notified of when someone sends you a message, you’re out of luck with this app.
Use the comments below to let us know what you think of the new Twitter app. Also be sure to share your thoughts about Twitter acquiring Atebits and setting themselves up as a serious competitor to the network of app developers that has supported them for so long.
Tweetie has been acquired by Twitter and rebranded as Twitter for iPhone. The app features a few subtle upgrades from Tweetie 2 but maintains the excellent interface. The feature set and integration with Twitter.com are unrivaled and make the app among the best Twitter options available, free or not. The primary blemish in an almost perfect app is the lack of push notifications. This oversight is quite surprising as notifications are a pretty basic feature that even most of the worst apps handle just fine.9