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App Battle: Twitter Apps

By Andrew C. Special Contributor TDG Online
Welcome to the Android app battleground, readers! As a recent Blackberry to Android convert, I am finding there are a ton of great apps out there, and choosing among them all is difficult, and time consuming. This is where I will be putting some of the best Android apps to the test, and reviewing them head to head for you. In the end, the winner stays, and the losers will get uninstalled. Today’s battle will pit the best of the best in Android Twitter apps against each other. As a Twitter user, I like to focus on the social aspect of the service. I have only one Twitter account. I like to keep up with everyone I follow as much as possible, but I tend to rely on my own lists to help me keep up with certain groups of users more than everyone else in my default timeline. Based on my Twitter habits, the features that I find important, and those that I think others may find important, I have come up with the following testing categories:
  • The Graphical User Interface – It’s what you see on the screen, and determines how you interact with the App. I can think of nothing more important.
  • Responsiveness – Is this app snappy and quick, or does it tend to lag when I enter a command? (Note: All apps were tested while my device was using a WIFI connection.)
  • Supported features – Does the app have things like list management or Url compression?
Now that we have our criteria for deciding what app is best, let me introduce the first contestant.
As the first app tested, HootSuite Lite, sets the bar high for all of its rivals . As you can see from the
screenshots, it consists of a white background with teal menus. The app looks quite nice, and is easy to read. At any given time you will see about 6 tweets on the screen at once. I found the UI to be responsive, and during my tests witnessed no lag upon updating feeds or posting. The app includes standard features like main timeline view, mentions view, direct message view, list view, search, trending topics, Url compression, and the ability to attach pictures to tweets. The inclusion of these
features makes the app useful, but the way the app handles some of these features is where it really shines. When you first start and log in to HootSuite, you will need to set up your streams. The streams are like tabs that hold a selection of timelines. These streams are customizable, and allow you to see only a few of your timelines at a time, and you can easily switch between them by dragging your finger to the left or right. The nice thing about this is that you don’t have to remember what is on the 8th timeline in your view, because you can group similar timelines together, and you only need to worry
about two or three timelines at a time if you choose.
Another feature of HootSuite Lite is that it automatically expands links that are compressed letting you know what is behind that compressed Url, so no more worrying about your buddies trying to RickRoll you. Simply read the link in its entirety before clicking. Users who like to plan their lives ahead of time
may find the tweet scheduling feature useful, simply tweet, and set it to post later. Other included features that I found interesting are timelines for the user’s followers and people who are following the user, and support for multiple accounts (up to three for the lite version, unlimited for full version). The two things that I found to be missing from HootSuite Lite are the ability to view photos in the timeline, and the ability to view profile pictures larger than the twitter icon. Also, the app will not help you input a user’s name from your follow list like some apps, so if you start to type a reply to someone, you’d better have that name handy.
The next contestant is Touiteur. I think “Touiteur” is French for Twitter, or maybe not, but one thing is for sure; this app with a Frenchy name really packs a punch! Touiter, by default, is gray, but if you don’t like that, you can change it. This app includes all the standard features that you would expect like link shortening, trending topics, favorites, and search. The app allows you to view conversations between two users who reply to each other, which beats having to search back through your timeline to figure out what they were talking about. Probably the best feature that I’ve notice in this app is the ability to color code your twitter friends with their own RBG color. You can make up a color for each individual friend if you want. This makes it really easy to scroll through the timelines and not miss a single word from any individual that you choose to make stand out. Touiteur helps you type user names when you are mentioning someone, and it allows you to view profile pics larger than the twitter icon. Touiters missing features, in my opinion, are preview pictures in the timeline view and list management. You can view the lists in Touiteur, but that’s about it. You won’t be adding lists, or updating list users with this app’s current release. I also noticed that sometime this app can be a bit laggy, and has even been know to flash the dreaded “Force Close” screen on occasion
The third entry in this battle royale is TweetCaster. TweetCaster is an app with a very slick UI. I noticed right away that everything in this app looks superb. The menus are blue, the background is light gray, and all of the icons have their own custom look to them that makes the program very pleasing to the eye. First off, the UI is quick and responsive, and I experienced no problems whatsoever with regards to lagginess. That being said, the splash screen and ads get old with this one. You have the ability to close
the ads with a click, but they show up rather frequently. I do assume that you can get rid of the ads by purchasing the pro version of the app (currently $4.99). With TweetCaster you can view 4 or 5 tweets at a time in your timeline, but that depends on whether or not there is an ad onscreen. TweetCaster’s main screen shows you the standard main timeline, mentions, direct messages, favorites, and lists. There is also included support for trending topics, searches, and nearby tweets. This app even offers you the ability to save searches, which can be handy if there is a topic that you like to search for
frequently. TweetCaster has excellent list management features. With it, you can easily create new lists from the menu under your lists, or add your twitter friends to your current lists from the menu under their profile view. TweetCaster has picture previews directly in the timeline, and the pictures are resizeable once clicked on. TweetCaster will allow its users to post items to Facebook, and it supports spillovers to twitlonger along with the usual expected features like the ability to add pictures and video, location, and shortened urls to tweets. Oh, and if you just can’t remember the username of you buddy that you are sending a message to, TweetCaster will help you out with that as well. Oh, and if you are interested in refreshing your client whenever you shake your phone, TweetCaster can do that as well. All in all, TweetCaster has to be one of the most polished twitter clients you will find, and it is feature packed. The drawbacks to this app may be the ads, that will still take up a portion of the screen even when you have an adblocker like adfree running. The Splash screen will show up when you launch TweetCaster after having it closed for a while, and you’ll want it to go away so that you can get down to tweeting.
Twicca is the next app to throw its hat into the ring. Twicca, from the screen shots in the marketplace looked like something that I really wanted to skip over. I must say that this BETA app did not look very appealing, and the icon used for it makes you think, “windows console application”. I, however, was wrong, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a worthy twitter client hiding under that less than stellar
marketplace listing. Twicca is a dark app. I don’t mean that Twicca is evil, I just mean that it’s mostly black, and will always be mostly black. Twicca allows you to color code your friends with one of 6 different colors, but that only puts color on the far left of the user’s tweets, and it makes any links or mentions in their tweet the same color.
Twicca offers up all the basics like main timeline, mentions, direct messages, list view, searches, trending topics, and the ability to save searches. The app allows you to post pictures or videos and locations, use a link shortener, and even post to facebook with a marketplace add-on. Twicca displays about 5 tweets onscreen at once. The List management options in Twicca are superb. You can create new lists in Twicca, add people to lists, remove people from lists, and delete lists if you want. This app also gives you the ability to view conversations between users making it easy to she just what your friends were tweeting about earlier when you weren’t paying attention. Twicca packs a lot of options into a dark application. The only real missing features that I could find were the lack of picture previews in timelines, and the lack of ability to view profile pictures in a zoomed-in state.
Just recently, one of the most popular desktop Twitter applications released a BETA version of their software for Android, since then, TweetDeck has been creating quite a buzz. TweetDeck offers up a responsive, clean user interface that allows you to swipe through the column views to quickly view another timeline. TweetDeck gives shows you all of your standard columns by default, and lets you add your own lists and search columns. That is, if you can figure out how. Since this software is still in an early BETA phase, and there seems to be a lot of unofficial updates floating around that address any issues reported by beta testers. I will say that the list management options need some attention. I would also like to address the fact that with TweetDeck you are only able to view 3 nicely-displayed tweets at a time in your timeline.
TweetDeck for Android, like it’s desktop version, offers the ability to link to your Facebook account, and also your FourSquare account. The Facebook options allow for you to post directly to Facebook, and read Facebook updates in your timeline. TweetDeck also allows you to comment on and like updates
from you Facebook friends from within the update view. While testing, I noticed that some of the
Facebook posts were empty. When I went into Facebook for Android to see what these posts were,
they showed up to be shared articles. The TweeDeck app overall is quite beautiful, and the developers are really on to something. They are headed in the right direction, and I have no doubt that this app will someday be one of the best Twitter clients on the Android OS, but today is not that day. The BETA version that I tested is simply not ready
for prime-time.
There were three other apps that I tested, but decided to not include as fully reviewed apps for the discussion. They are the official Twitter for Android application, Twidroyd, and Seesmic. All of these apps do a fine job of letting you use Twitter on your Android device, but none of them had the goods to be a contender for the top spot in my book. In my opinion, the official Twitter app had too much reliance on the home screen to get you from timeline to timeline. Sure, the animated home screen is nice, but I don’t want to have to go back a page any time I want to view another standard
timeline. Twidroyd, although laggy at times was a nice app, but it had too many features that were only available in the premium (pay) version that are readily available for you in TweetCaster for free. Seesmic seemed quite similar to HootSuite, and really didn’t have enough features to set it apart from the rest of the pack. It did, however, provide support for Google Buzz, so if that’s something that interests you, you may want to go ahead and check it out.
After reviewing all of these apps I must say that deciding on a clear cut winner was not easy. All of the apps have their strong points, and choosing the best would be like choosing the best android device, or the best pre-packaged PC. It really depends on the features, and what is most important to you as the user. I like the ability to see individuals who I follow in my timeline highlighted with a particular color. This makes it easy for me to go back and read their posts while quickly thumbing through the timeline. So in that regard, I had to limit the choices down to Touiter and Twicca. Though neither looked as polished as the other apps that I tested, both were able to handle most of the specific
requirements that I had for a twitter app. There is something to be said for the simplicity of both apps, and if you are a minimalist like me, keeping things clean and simple just give the whole app a sophistication that other apps seem to be lacking. Overall, I have chosen to use Twicca as my Twitter app of choice because Touiter is weak in the list management category. If you prefer to choose from one of the other more stylish apps or if you have multiple twitter accounts to manage, you really just can’t beat all of the features packed into TweetCaster. If you can get passed the ads, or don’t mind shelling out five bucks, it’s really a beautifully done twitter client. Well, that’s all for today; congratulations to the winner. After reading article, it is my hope that you have gained some idea of what you would like to have in a twitter application, and what features you would consider to be most important to you. Feel free to have a look at the included chart to get an idea of what features are available with each app. Do you think I left any apps out? Do you have any apps that you would like to see compared head to head? Do you disagree with me? That’s great! Tell
us about it here in the comments section. We can’t wait to read your thoughts!

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