Apr 30th, 2010

Due to the nature of this release, I’ve written this review in an entirely different style. I hope it doesn’t annoy the lot of you, but it’s literally how I perceived the app as soon as I installed it on my phone. While long-term usage isn’t reflected in my tests, the review should still give you a pretty good idea of the quality you can expect with the installation of this app.

Additionally, I hope to bring you guys a full gallery of pictures as well as a video run-through very soon for the many people unable to try the app out on their sub-2.1 devices.

We first saw Twitter get official apps on both the Blackberry and iPhone platforms. Pondering when Android might get its own official treatment, we wondered if Twitter would develop their own Android app or acquire an existing one like they did with Tweetie. We have our answer, and we’re blown away by the potential that this app has (and the innovation that it brings to the Android market in its entirety).

Upon starting the app, I’m greeted with the usual login screen asking simply for my username and password. It’s what immediately follows that blows me away in more ways than one: Twitter asked if I would like it to link my friends up to contacts in my phone. I opted not to do this as I don’t have many personal contacts that use Twitter, but Twitter’s initiative to integrate this into their app screams “this is how it’s done”. It’s clear why the app is exclusive to Android 2.1 and beyond: the app tailors to specific features within the core of Android itself.

Excitedly, I move on from that screen and am quickly taken to a nice looking launch screen (reminiscent to what you’d get upon launching the Facebook app). If nothing else, Twitter really shines as an app that shows the potential of the Android OS that’s yet to be unlocked by a majority of developers out there. Animated backgrounds constitute the stunning effect of blue and gray clouds moving across the screen, trending topics pop up at the bottom of the app in fluid motion, and clean, stylized icons make you “feel” like you’re using Twitter. That last bit may be somewhat on the weird side, but there’s an indescribable feeling you get when everything looks and feels official.

twitter-official-app-timeline

Clicking near those speech bubbles at the bottom brings up the full offering of trends as you can navigate between current, daily, and weekly happenings. Everything you expect to see from the trends API shows up here, and the app even graciously lets you know how long ago the list has been updated. Straight from here, you can go into the full search view using the icon that resembles a magnifying glass in the upper left corner. You’re given the text box to enter the search term, as expected, but you’re also given a unique set of search options that – up until now – has not been implemented in any Twitter app.

You can search by location using a toggle below the search field, and you’re able to differentiate the search between people or tweets. I’ve only seen a handful of apps allow you to search people, so it’s a very welcome addition. Even the apps that I did find it in limited you to just opening specific usernames, while Twitter’s search digs into the profile data, as well. I want to send out a tweet now, so I jump directly back to the homescreen by touching the Twitter logo at the top of the app (it must’ve gotten happy when I touched it because it glowed). On the compose screen, everything looks like business as usual: you’re given a box to type in, the ability to upload photos, and you can add specific usernames to your tweet in case you need to mention that one person who always changes their name.

I decided I wanted to upload some video for this tweet, but unfortunately the option wasn’t there. I’ll take a photo, instead. Twitpic integration comes with the app and Twitter does so elegantly. When I returned to my timeline to check out the tweet I just sent, I can see the picture I uploaded integrated directly into the timeline: a real treat that a lot of apps just don’t provide. Unfortunately, electing to see the pic in a larger view takes you out of the app and into the browser, but this is a huge nitpick on my part.

Hitting the back button to get back to the app, I notice someone replied to my tweet. Thanks to my short term memory loss, I forgot which tweet they were responding to and frantically searched for a way to view the conversation. There was just one problem: Twitter didn’t code a true conversation view. Instead, I have to click the “in reply to” link (click-able directly on the tweet itself) over and over until I drill down to where I need to go. It’s a cumbersome drawback, but I’ll deal with it, for now.

twitter-official-app-location

After getting my refresher, I want to check out my friend’s profile to see if they’ve made any changes to their profile. By clicking the icon above his picture, I can also jump into another sizable list of options to access: who’s following them? Who are they following? What lists are they involved with? What tweets have they favorited recently? All of this is accessible with your own profile, as well, with the obvious added benefit to edit all of your information besides the day you became a tweeter (or twitterer? twatter? You decide.)

Even with my qualms with Twitter’s native retweet system, I must accept the fact that people use it. As most third-party apps have already taken advantage of the new APIs that Twitter offers, I wasn’t surprised to see it fully implemented here. It’s invaluable to not only see the list of tweets that have been retweeted by the people I follow, but also to see who’s been retweeting you (and stuff retweeted by you, for good measure.)

I wanted to retweet something my friend posted that I thought my followers would enjoy, and I also wanted to append my own commentary to it, while I’m at it. While I can’t fault Twitter for it, there is no official way to facilitate old-style retweets. There is a very cumbersome work-around (using Android’s native “Share” feature, but I’d rather not have to deal with it. It’s a disappointment, for sure, so here’s hoping Twitter plans to bring it in future updates.

Falling victim to the advent of native retweets, I reluctantly went through the operation and returned to the home screen to do some more of my blue-bird bidding. I haven’t had any direct messages recently, but it appears my inbox and outbox have synched up just fine. Next, I check out lists. I’m listed by quite a few people on my personal account (not nearly as many as the Phandroid Twitter account) and I can see these lists just fine. Tweets from the other members of the list are aggregated alongside mine, and I can see who’s following the list, too.

Everything is as you would expect, with the app even giving you the option to set up a new list (and to dictate the privacy settings for it). I rarely use lists on Twitter, but I created one for the sake of a review. It took me a while to find out how to add someone to it, but after figuring out that you had to goto the user’s profile and hit the menu button, I was on my way.

Finally, after exploring every corner of the app (and deciding that I wanted to use it on a daily basis) I headed into the settings menu to customize my experience. If I ever get annoyed with animated backgrounds (and I probably won’t) I can shut them off with ease. I’m able to select the specific URL-shortening service I want to use, too, which is surprising seeing as Twitter dubbed http://bit.ly as their official URL provider. I’m also given my choice of picture uploading sites, as well. You only get a couple of settings per function, but more could definitely be added in the future.

Notification options are in-tune with what you’d get on an ordinary app, too, allowing you to set refresh intervals, LED options, the types of tweets you’d like to check for, and the sound you want it to play when new tweets fly in (pun is crucial to a successful diet, folks). Anyway, after setting the app up how I like it, I’m good to go. I almost forgot that Android supports widgets, though. I back out to my phone’s homescreen and long-press an empty desktop to see if there are any widget options available: you can choose between a small and large widget to pretty your homescreen with.

Much like Facebook’s widget, you’re given a single tweet at a time with the user’s picture and name to identify (as well as the time, client, and who they’re replying to, if applicable). Navigating tweets is done in similar fashion, too, using left and right arrows to bring up the next one in the queue (in contrast, the small widget only shows the latest tweet). One thing I didn’t understand is why you’re able to reply to a specific tweet from the small widget, while you only have the ability to compose an entirely new tweet from the bigger widget. Fortunately, going into the timeline via the widget itself helps alleviate the pain, but those 2 seconds of time I wasted could’ve gone toward my weird addiction to Twitter.

The Pros:

  • This just looks like the Twitter client you’d expect from Twitter themselves. The beautiful interface (including the stunning animated backgrounds) sets a new standard for Android apps (of all types)
  • The application integrates nicely with the core Android operating system, housing the ability to link your contacts up with your Twitter friends to see tweets in the address book
  • Integrates Twitter’s core features with great depth, allowing you to effectively replace the actual Twitter site
  • Allows a degree of customization that you might not expect from an official app.

The Cons:

  • No native retweet. This isn’t a feature of the site itself, but it has become such a staple in the Twitter community that you’d expect them to follow suit.
  • Due to its advanced UI features and Android integration, the app is only available for Android 2.1 or higher.

The Bottom Line:

If you’re a Twitter user (and the lack of old-style retweets doesn’t completely ruin your Twitter experience) you will want this app – that’s granted you are on a device with an up-to-date firmware. I’d love to see Twitter bring out a stripped version of the app for other firmware versions, but for now a lot of people are going to have to do without. Still, the app itself is a development milestone that all developers should strive to match. If only for its UI features alone, it echoes the potential that Android has to create beautiful, compelling, and feature-rich applications that works without fail. While it won’t draw everyone in (especially if you have something against the color blue), you owe it to yourself to at least give it a download and see if you like it for yourself.

Be sure to check back frequently as we’ll be bringing you more reviews of some of the premier twitter apps that the Android market has to offer. If there’s a review for an app you want to see in particular, let it be known in the comments below! Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter if you haven’t already.

Other posts in the Twitwars series: Twidgit Lite, Twidroid, Twicca