iPhone Twitter App Review: Twittelator v. Twitterrific

UPDATE Mon Jul 14 18:35:34 EDT 2008: Andrew just let me know that he’s already built in a browser to Twittelator and will be releasing v1.1 to the App Store just as soon as Apple gets around to clearing up the queue. Oh. Yeah.

UPDATED: Andrew Stone just dropped some learnin’ on me. In fact Twittelator does support links, just not in the text – a little arrow appears next to each tweet that has a link that fires up Safari. Various bits of this review are updated.

I apologize in advance to readers of this here blog, this week is likely to be iPhone week here at #comments. You know, shiny shiny, especially if I end up getting a 3G sometime. Anyhoooz.

I’m a twitterer, although, not an obsessive one. I like it for the occasional update and seeing what other folks are up to, so I was definitely interested in the new apps – Twittelator and Twitterrific. Prior to this I used both Hahlo and Twitter’s site on my iPhone. Both were ok.

On to the apps. First of all, what the hell is up with these names? I mean, can’t they come up with a nice small easy to spell and type name? Second of all, neither of them is perfect, both have strengths and weaknesses, but I’m probably going to end up using Twittelator, I like it’s functionality better – it falls a little with its decent but not jaw dropping link support – Twitterrific kicks ass in the department.

First Impressions

My first take on these was that Twitterific is a more polished application, it looks nicer, it has screens with nice big buttons to push and you can see why it won that Apple design award. Twittelator, doesn’t look shabby, just by comparison it lacks some polish, I think. On the other hand, I prefer the main tweet showing screen of Twittelator over Twitterrific’s. Twittelator uses a bubble method, similar to how the SMS app has bubbles, but it also groups consecutive posts by the same person which helps save space and also ends up looking cleaner. The font is a little smaller, which I like, but I suspect some folks will prefer Twitterrific’s larger font.

My first read of both apps gave the win to Twitterrific, though. It seemed more, I don’t know, app-y, or something.

iPhone functionality

For me, though, a twitter client’s pretty basic, I wanted to see what fanciness was particular to the iPhone. In particular that means the camera and location services. Both apps support these but they do it in different ways.

Twittelator has excellent camera support, when you click the tweet button and are entering your tweet, there’s a camera button right there that pops up a window that asks you if you want to take a picture with the camera or pull one up from your library of existing photos. Either way, once you have your picture it also allows you to move and scale the image so you get to do a little cropping before sending it out. Finally, it adds a little bit of text and the twitpic url into the tweet text box, so you can edit it, write additional text, whatever. It’s very clean and easy.

Twitterrific works similarly. In tweet mode there’s a camera. Unfortunately, you can only take a new picture with the camera and there’s no move and scale action, what you shoot is what gets sent. It adds the twitpic url into the text box, though, and you can add your own text around it.

As for location awareness, they both provide a little location button in tweet mode. In Twittelator this causes a link to be placed in your tweet text that goes to a google maps page with a pin where you are. Very obvious and convenient. Twitterific, on the other hand, actually edits your Location in your Twitter profile with iPhone and the latitude/longitude of your location. I guess this let’s it do things like find other Twitterer’s near you, but it doesn’t even put a changed time so there’s no indication of when and no text in the tweet to suggest when you updated it. Personally, I much prefer Twittelator’s method and don’t see too much value in Twitterrific’s.

Twitter functionality

In terms of regular Twitter functions, here, too, I think Twittelator wins the prize. It’s very easy to click into people’s profiles (just click on any tweet to see that profile page) and get to message or private message them (I don’t think, though, that there’s a button that builds a direct message), of course there’s a one click reply button on top of every tweet in the tweet list view. Adding new @friend text is super easy by pressing the @friends button you get a scroll wheel that let’s you slide through all your Twitter friends and select the one you want (instead of having to type it out in a potentially typo inducing frenzy). You can also start following people from their profile page, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be context aware so it still says start following even if you already are (it’d be nice if that button disappeared or turned into a stop following). On profile pages it also shows all the tweets of that people that person follows, which is a nice touch.

Twitterrific offers the same functionality, in my opinion, though, it’s clunkier. For example, in the tweet view in order to do a reply you first have to select the tweet you want to reply to, then you click the tweet button, then you click the tweet button (well, it’s the same icon) again in tweet mode and it puts in the @friend text. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to add more than one @friend except to simply type out the @friend link yourself. Double tapping any tweet (single tab selects it) prings you to a profile page where you can favourite, reply, see their user info, etc… It doesn’t seem to support private or direct messages – you have to type all that out.

Fatal Flaws and Strengths

If you’ve been reading the review and thinking, well Twittelator sounds way better than Twitterific, what’s up with the luke warm overview? Twittelator has reasonable support for links – instead of making the text hot it creates a little arrow icon next to the tweet for those tweets that have a link in them which fires up Safari. This is an ok solution but if you click on a lot of links in Twitter you’ll be switching apps from Safari to Twittelator a lot, which can get annoying. There is also no support for @friend text – so you can’t jump to a profile if it shows up in a tweet.

Twitterrific, on the other hand has awesome support for links. Most impressively it has its own webkit browser, so when you click a link, you don’t actually leave the app it just switches into browser mode, shows you the page (with all the zoom goodness of webkit) and when you’re done, you click the “done” button and you go back to where you were, no muss and no fuss. It’s perfect. @friend text links you, by default, to the twitter page of that person, but you can also set a different website too, summize, for example, if you swing that way. This is Twitterrific’s massively killer feature and probably the one that will make me use it over Twittelator, despite pretty much being worse in every other way.

Miscellanea

What else, what else, oh right, Twittelator has an odd exclamation point right there in it’s main list view of tweets. It’s a panic button, clicking that pulls up your location and automatically places it in text that says “This is an emergency! Please help!” Which I guess is useful sometimes. It does however require that you wait first for the location awareness to figure out where you are and then send it – so it isn’t instant by any means. It’s also a very small button. Shrug.

There’s also a search button on Twittelator, which is pretty handy if you go for that sort of thing. I believe it uses Summize, but I could be wrong about that.

Twitterrific’s free version puts the occasional ad in. For me it isn’t a problem, it comes in like a tweet and rolls off like a tweet (unlike the desktop app, when I was trying it, that fixed that add at the top of the window, super annoying). But I know some folks are massively turned off by any ads, in which case the premium version may be for you. There’s also a some settings (like light background) which seem to be premium.

Overall

I am going to be using Twittelator. It offers a lot more functionality in a more convenient package – the downside is the potential for a lot of application switching following links out. Twitterrific is ok, it looks nice, but requires more steps to do a lot of things, but damn, that browser integration is the cat’s meow. They both feel faster and more functional than the web apps do.

In any event, they are both free so if you’re curious you should definitely check out Twittelator and Twitterrific. You using either? Prefer the web apps? Let me know. (oh, while I’m here, why not follow me on Twitter? It’s good for you!)

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  • Michael, Twitter can definitely be a time suck for many. Personally, though, it's one of internet things I spend the least time on. Blogging, Reader and FriendFeed are much more time intensive, Twitter's just a pleasant diversion every now and again. :) Give it a shot! hehehe!

  • As a father of three with a full time job and aspirations to one day be a writer (for reals!), I'd been avoiding Twitter for sometime now. I've been deliberately staying ignorant of all the shiny things out there on the interwebs like it that sound cool, but seem (on the surface anyway) to be time-sinks. So I clicked through some links in your post and read up on it. Oh. MY. GOD.

    Now I know I have to avoid this thing like the plague. As it is, Google Reader already consumes WAY too much of my time in front of the keyboard checking up on things I find interesting on the web. Time, I might add, which should be spent, oh, I don't know. Working. Writing. Learning things.

    Twitter to me seems to be an attention deficit cocktail just waiting to happen. Of course, I said I'd avoid blogging like the plague a few years ago too...ah well.

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