Thursday, March 11, 2010

Since no one was asking...

I'm sure there's a lot of people out there asking themselves what exactly it would take to create the perfect Twitter app for Jon's iPhone.  That's an excellent question.  Rather than let all the devs out there ponder this question and hope to epiphanticate* the answer, I'll just spell it out for you.

I could make this post a lot longer and more tedious by going through all of the features that I would want in a twitter application, but there's no need for that.  There's a whole list of standard features that everyone's come to expect from their client of choice, so I don't think I need to say that being able to DM or Reply to people is something that should be included.  That pretty much goes without saying.  Instead, I'm going to tell you what the little something extras are that I would like to see rolled all into one.  Truth is, there's three twitter apps out there that completely cover all of my needs and wants, they just aren't all in one nice, neat location.  Those apps are Twittelator Pro (my personal favorite), Tweetie 2 (a close second) and Tweetdeck for iPhone (a pretty distant third, but with a few key features that need to be addressed.)

All three of those choices have a lot of the same core functionality, so here's what I think is unique/best implementation of for each app and what should be integrated into one super app.

Twittelator Pro: ($4.99)
1.  The number of unread tweets that counts down in real time as you scroll through and read.  --This should really be the standard in my opinion.  Maybe it's just me, but I like to know how many unread tweets I have and I don't like to have to mark things as read once I've scrolled past them.  I also don't want to mark all as read in one fell swoop as my only means of clearing the number of unreads.
2.  Tap the time since tweet was posted gives you either a quick @reply compose screen, or if it was part of a conversation with someone else, it shows the conversation.  --I love this because I don't always remember what was said last, so this makes it much easier to follow the conversation or quicky reply to someone without too many taps.
3.  Tap anyone's profile pic and be taken directly to their profile page.  --Seems pretty straight forward.  I almost find it odd that this doesn't happen in some of the other apps.
4.  Inline photo preview.  --This is a biggie for me.  When someone tweets a photo, rather than seeing some indecipherable link, I see a thumbnail of the picture.  I almost can't stand the fact that the other apps don't do this.
5.  Hash tag adding.  --I really like the way Twittelator Pro handles this.  It's a simple scroll wheel for previously used tags so I don't have to retype them all the time.  It's also easy to add multiple hash tags at once.  Not that I do that often, but when I want to, it's nice.

Honorable Mention:
1.  Custom themes. --This isn't a deal breaker for me, but I do think it's worth mentioning that you can set up the color scheme of the interface to pretty much whatever you want and you can share your theme with others.
2.  Translation button for tweets in other languages.  --I don't know how accurate it is, but it's sure better than nothing. (Tweetie 2 does this as well, but I think Twittelator Pro puts it in a more useful spot.)
3.  Double tap the status bar at the top to scroll all the way to the newest tweet.  --This also marks everything as read.  Sometimes that's nice when you've got too many tweets to read and you just don't care.  It's much faster than swiping up for a couple of minutes.
4.  Tweet drafts.  --I almost never do this, but the ability to draft tweets even when I have no signal/internet connection, and be able to save them for later is really nice.  It's also useful if you don't want it to look like you're tweeting when you shouldn't be, but don't want to forget whatever amazing witticism you just manifested when you should have been working.

Tweetie 2: ($2.99)
1.  Uninterrupted reading of tweets.  --Unlike some of the other apps, Tweetie 2 doesn't lock up when it's updating/refreshing.  You can continue to scroll through your unread tweets.  This is probably one of the biggest pluses for Tweetie 2 in my opinion.
2.  Swipe a tweet for quick links to common functions like Reply, Favorite, Profile and whatnot.  --This is nice because it puts a lot of key features right where they need to be.  Nobody needs to fight through two or three taps before getting to what they need.
3.  Gap indicator for missed tweets.  --Every app pulls in a limited number of tweets every time you load it up, so if you follow enough people, you're going to miss some tweets.  If you don't like that, Tweetie 2 really helps you out by showing you where the gap is and allowing you to retrieve all the missed tweets.  This is definitely a great feature.
4.  Search your tweets.  --At the top of all of your tweets is a search bar that filters/searches all of the tweets from the current screen.  I'm baffled as to why this isn't included in more apps.  Sure, searching all of the twitterverse is nice, but sometimes you're just trying to find that one tweet from the people you follow.
5.  When viewing someone's profile, Tweetie 2 shows whether or not they are following you back.  --Maybe I'm a jerk, but if you just add me to get me to follow back and then dump me once that's accomplished, I don't like you. Tweetie 2 makes that whole process a lot easier.  If I'm not even enjoying your tweets and I find out you've cut me loose, I'll say goodbye to you as well.

Honorable Mention:
1.  The pull down when you're composing a reply tweet to see what you're actually replying to.  (Yes, Twittelator Pro does this too, but I know Tweetie 2 did it before them, so I'm giving Tweetie 2 the credit.)
2.  The pull down to refresh when you're at the end of unread tweets.  --See above for same explanation.

Tweetdeck for iPhone:  (Free)
1.  Facebook integration/multiple accounts.  --This is just really well done in my opinion.  I love the fact that I can plug in multiple accounts, including Facebook, and update them all at the same time.  They have little buttons at the top of the compose screen that you can toggle on and off in whatever combination you choose.  This is easily the best integration of multiple accounts that I've ever seen.  Tweetie 2 isn't bad for switching somewhat quickly between more than one account, but its got nothing on Tweetdeck for iPhone.  I also really like having a separate column for just my Facebook status updates.  It's nice to have everything in just one place.
2.  Switching between All tweets, @replies, lists and Facebook updates.  --I don't think any client is faster at switching between those categories than Tweetdeck for iPhone.  I wish they could all be that fast.

Honorable Mention:
1.  Update notification.  --I really like the way all the updates show up in just one place, but when you click on it, you get a detailed breakdown of where the updates are coming from and a second click takes you directly to where they are.  It just seems really well done to me.

So there you have it.  If you take all of the standard features and then add on what I consider to be the best of these three applications, you would have what I would call the best available Twitter App for the iPhone.  I readily admit that I'm not a programmer and I don't know if it's even possible to add all of these functions into one client without the thing running like turtle through molasses, but if it is, I would pay $5-10 for such an app.  I don't know if that price would be worth the trouble of making it happen, but it would certainly make me happy and isn't that what we're all here for?  To make me happy?  I thought so.

This is my perfect iPhone app.  Everyone's different, so I'm curious to know what features other people like.  Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion or questions.

*I'm completely sure this is a real word.  This is a totally legit conjugation of the word epiphany.


omar said...

I never knew about that pulldown to view what you're replying to feature of Tweetie 2. Thanks!

I'm currently waffling between Tweetie and Echofon. I had previously sworn off Echofon, but I really like the Mac desktop version (and when using both, you can sync the read/unread status of tweets.)

Jon said...

Omar: I've pretty much given up on desktop versions of twitter clients, but I can see the desire to have the two sync. I know Tweetdeck has a solution for that, but it just seemed like extra time to me and I pretty much exclusively do my tweeting from my phone now.

Also, glad I could help! That pull down thing is freakin' sweet.