Zephyr Makes App.net Look Elegant

I’ve written my fair share of articles about App.net and the clients I test out, but there’s always new ones out there that I want to try. I have yet to find the ADN client that fits every one of my needs.

I’m aware, of course, that most people are using Netbot these days; It’s free and admittedly awesome. But it’s wearing Tweetbot‘s clothes, and I want my ADN experience to feel visually unique from Twitter without losing the power of Tapbot’s app. In the past, I’ve tried Rivr (for iPhone), which was full of features and pleasant to look at, but after several weeks of use, it didn’t capture my attention anymore and I was back to Netbot (which also has an iPad app).

Zephyr is the closest I’ve come to the Netbot experience. In colloquial terms, I’m really stoked about this app. Read on to find out why.

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The Interface

Zephyr’s interface is, in some ways, similar to Netbot’s. Both rely on darker colour schemes and tabs along the bottom of the screen. That being said, there are some significant differences. Typography is an obvious one to anybody who has used both apps, and to my pleasant surprise, the font is adjustable. I like the Medium font that the app uses as its default; it allows you to fit more posts on the screen than you can in almost any other client that I’ve tried.

Welcome to Zephyr's take on ADN.

Welcome to Zephyr’s take on ADN.

Beyond that, the tabs are broken up into your Stream, the Global Stream, your Profile, Search and Settings. Tabs are sadly not adjustable. Admittedly, I’d prefer to have a Mentions tab and lose the Settings tab (my personal motto is “set it and forget it”), but Mentions and Starred Posts are available in the Profile tab.

Mentions and Starred Posts are only available from the Profile tab.

Mentions and Starred Posts are only available from the Profile tab.

The interface itself is incredibly fast, which Zephyr states twice in its App Store description. In fact, it’s so fast that if your Wi-Fi or cellular network is slower than it normally is, your Stream or users’ avatars could have a hard time keeping up! I don’t think that’s much of a problem, but if Zephyr’s developer is able to speed up the caching process while keeping the speed of the interface this quick, they could have the fastest social networking app in the App Store.

Getting Pretty

Visually, the app is simple and responsive. All the visual elements behave exactly as you’d expect, which makes the app feel incredibly polished (and that’s more than I can say for most of the competition). Other apps will stretch Cover Images on profiles, but Zephyr wisely leaves them alone. Reposts are indicated with elegant grey text and a bold user name for the reposter. It’s really well done and it’s incredibly pleasant to look at.

The conversation view is really nice.

The conversation view is really nice.

The colour scheme is dark without becoming overly robotic. Some elements, like the blue light that illuminates the Stream tab when there are new posts, are almost playfully beautiful. (In a nice touch, that same blue light is visible in the app icon. Smart move.)

There are some elements I miss from Netbot: I like having the avatar appear on the right instead of the left for your own posts; it helps differentiate what you’ve said and what everybody else has said. If I star a post, the star symbol for the post becomes hollow. I feel like it should be the opposite. (That being said, a starred post will always have a grey star beneath the avatar, and maybe that’s enough of an indicator in and of itself.)

The Feature Show

Zephyr supports almost every major ADN feature, mostly in grand fashion with subdued visual flair. Most of this stuff runs in the background and Zephyr doesn’t make a big deal out of it — things like synchronized posts aren’t even mentioned in the app description.

Zephyr also supports multiple accounts and is a universal app, which is big for me. In my experience, using different clients across multiple devices seems to prevent proper syncing with ADN, so it’s nice to jump between the same client on two different devices and always find them in sync.

The Settings tab, despite its prominence, doesn't give access to as many features as I think it should.

The Settings tab, despite its prominence, doesn’t give access to as many features as I think it should.

There are a couple oddities, though. Zephyr will use yfrog or CloudApp for photos, but it doesn’t use ADN’s storage. (Also, I wish somebody else would adopt Rivr’s Instagram-like photo filters.) Zephyr supports Instapaper and Pocket, but not Readability (you’ll still need to use Netbot or Felix if you want that feature). And although Zephyr supports notifications, it doesn’t support them granularly, which means that you can’t choose to receive notifications for a mention but not a repost.

That being said, who knows what you’ll receive notifications for, anyways. Zephyr doesn’t tell you, but I can say that Netbot tells me every time I get a new follower while Zephyr does not.

My Wish List

The first item on my wish list is better notification support, preferably to the point that it’s granular. I’d also like to see photo filters, not unlike what Rivr supports, and a Night Mode. Minor visual enhancements, like adjusting where your avatar shows up in your Stream, would be nice as well.

Mentions have a nice blue shade to them (and Pedro and I like to chat), but it would be nice if my own posts also had some sort of visual cue.

Mentions have a nice blue shade to them (and Pedro and I like to chat), but it would be nice if my own posts also had some sort of visual cue.

I’d like to see more features. Zephyr should be competing with Netbot and Felix instead of Rhino and Rivr. It’s as beautiful as any app out there, but it’s missing some functionality for advanced users. And arguably, $4.99 is a lot to pay for an app that doesn’t cater to advanced users.

Beyond that, I’m not even sure development is still active. The last time the app was updated was December 2012 (and that update had some essential bug fixes), but beyond that, it’s hard to say if it will ever be updated again.

The Bottom Line

Zephyr is expensive, and it’s hard to justify the cost without assurances that development is ongoing. But it holds a lot of potential, and if the developer is working on it, we’re looking at an ADN client that could be the go-to in six months’ time. As it stands, the most feature-packed options are Netbot (which is still too similar to Tweetbot for my own liking) or Felix (which is only for the iPhone).

App.net is still in its early stages, and seeing as Zephyr is currently a 1.01 app, so is it. I want to see where development goes with it and I’m really excited about the possibilities. My breakdown right now is that Zephyr is my preferred iPad client and Felix is my preferred iPhone client, but Zephyr makes me want more. Hopefully the developer keeps updates coming.


Summary

Zephyr is sophisticated, refreshingly beautiful and supports most of the major ADN features, but is better experienced on an iPad than an iPhone. Also, development appears to have stalled.

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  • Jeremy Blake

    $5 is too much for an ADN app. For me at least. ADN just isn’t what I was hoping it would be. it’s basically a bunch of devs talking about their apps with each other. That’s about it.

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