Tweetbot may have been the best Twitter client in its day, but new times are ahead. Twitter’s own official app may be more popular than the smaller third-party alternatives, yet developers keep releasing new ones every few months. This time the app is the fifth version of a classic client originally on the Mac called Twitterrific.
In version 5.0, the developer redesigned everything and equipped the app with a completely new set of navigation features. It’s much simpler and more intuitive than before, too. To evaluate its potential as a competitor to the great Tweetbot, I downloaded Twitterrific on its release day and have been using it frequently since. Keep reading for a full look at the app.
Right when you see that small 5.3 MB download in the App Store, it looks more inviting than Tweetbot, which is 11.6 MB (35.4 on iPad) or Twitter’s own app at 10.2 MB. This signifies that the app is bare minimum, but that’s not exactly true. While there aren’t as many features available as in Tweetbot, the simplicity and beauty of the functionality as it is remains unique to this app.
There’s not a tour when you first launch Twitterrific, nor are there a lot of “helpful” tips to assist you in using the app to its full advantage. Instead, the developer focused on one thing: keeping the Twitter experience minimal and nice-looking. Discovering the little hidden features of the app is something you should be able to do, not something documentation is needed for. That’s not to say a manual should never be used, but rather that in this case it’s simply not needed.
The requirements for a Twitter client are three tabs: the main timeline, the mentions and the direct messages. If you want to go advanced with your app, that’s up to you, but Twitterrific keeps things minimal. There’s not a mute filter to be found, accounts don’t take more than two taps to set up and options are but two taps away. It’s good to see that a developer out there is trying to make people’s lives simpler with something like this. Powerful Twitter clients have their place, but Twitterrific brings something refreshing to the party.
Not Overwhelmed with Features
As I said before, there’s not a whole lot of stuff in this app. You have the three main tabs available at the top of the screen. Pull-to-refresh is integrated into all of them for a natural feel. The animation for this is the best part of the app, too. You would expect one of the usual variants of Loren Brichter’s (the pull-to-refresh creator) original implementation, but instead there’s something completely different: an animation.
When you pull down the timeline and let go, a bird starts flapping its wings and then, when it’s finished refreshing, disappears in black-and-white crystal shapes not unlike something from a Disney film. It’s a very fun touch to have in an app and gives Twitterrific much more character than the robotic Tweetbot, which now looks like more of an Android app when compared to The Iconfactory’s creation.
Swipe right over a Tweet to reply and swipe left to view the conversation.
As I cannot stress this enough, let me again mention that there aren’t a lot of features to find in this app. Exact timestamps, for instance, are not available for Tweets. You must instead hold your finger on the Tweet for a few seconds and tap the Open Page button button to view it in the built-in browser. Since this is the mobile Twitter.com, it shows the exact date and time. It’s the little things like this which are missing, but you probably won’t notice.
With Simplicity and Fewer Features Comes Speed
I’ve never used a Twitter app as fast as this one. I usually wait for things to load, and on 3G that takes a good five seconds on average with any app. Twitterrific is little more than one second, even on a very slow 500 kbps connection. I was shocked by how fast it loads Tweets. The trick behind it is both simplicity and the fact that it doesn’t load over 100 posts. Instead, 50 are loaded and the ones before them are disregarded so as to speed things up.
Another way this app improves its speed is not having inline images. It’s an interesting approach and some would question it, but the real reason for this is to keep the simple look. Some people like the little images beside Tweets, and if you do there are other apps out there for you. If not, tapping the image URL will load it in a snap — literally just over a second on a decent connection.
The speed of this app doesn’t end with its Tweet browsing, either. There’s a browser for those who enjoy tapping links that people have shared. It slides over from the left of the screen, dimming everything around it as it goes. (Yes, it’s fullscreen — on the iPhone — and there is a landscape orientation available, though it’s sometimes slow at getting there.) And boy is it fast. All pages load much faster than Tweetbot’s browser, which is welcoming, and there’s not even a mobilizer equipped. In the bottom right corner is a share button that gives you the option of copying a link to the page, emailing it and opening it in Safari.
Some Little Things are Missing, or Have Issues
With all the talk of simplicity and minimalism, you’d expect me to continue praising this app’s existence, but there is a matter we must tend to: its shortcomings. There aren’t many of them to address, thankfully, and the most major of issues is that of direct messaging. Simply put, it doesn’t work out of the box.
I’ve read App Store reviews and no other users are having problems with this feature, yet I couldn’t get it to function properly until I read the developer’s support document. It wouldn’t check for messages, display them or even let me send one until I manually authorized everything by adding the same account again. At first I thought it was my fault for not signing in correctly, but it was the app’s for not asking me to do so. In the end, I got it working, but there’s an extra few hidden steps.
But direct messaging isn’t the only thing missing from Twitterrific. When browsing Twitter, I often find myself opening a link in Safari. While this app’s integrated browser is lightning fast, Safari is still something I use for my Reading List and iCloud tabs. Sadly, there’s no way to hold a link and opt to open it in Safari instead of the built-in browser. You must instead copy it to your clipboard and paste it into the address bar in Safari. That’s not so much a problem as it is an annoyance, and I’m sure other people out there understand it as well.
Open the Lists menu by tapping your profile picture.
The worst issue for daily Twitter users is the lack of push notifications. This app doesn’t offer them at all, but there’s a reason for that: API limitations. Since Twitter put some usage exceptions on its API, developers have had trouble even creating new Twitter apps. This one, however, is well-established, though the official client still wins with notifications. If you use these daily, this app isn’t going to be useful at all.
Lastly, even though the modern user interface makes this app great, it falls short in not having one modern feature: profile customization. If you’re looking to change your profile picture, download another app; if you’re looking to look at cover photos on profiles, download another app; and if you really enjoy detailed information like the Twitter user number, please just use Tweetbot. The last one is a warning for you, the first two lacking features that need to be in this app. I see no reason for it to not let you change your profile picture. As for cover photos, they’re a big part of Twitter and would look nice in Twitterrific if implemented properly.
A Beautiful, Modern User Interface of Dark and Light
So you like to browse in the dark, do you? Well, this app will help you in your insomnia adventures: there’s a dark theme available for night browsing. It inverts all the colors and provides an easy-on-the-eyes user interface of the same simplicity. To enable this beautiful theme, tap your profile picture and tap the Aa fonts button. Tap Dark and even adjust the brightness if you wish. While you’re here, consider changing the font type or size or profile picture size, or adjusting the spacing between lines in Tweets.
One little thing you probably don’t know about this app is the special dark feature for the night. If you head to the Settings menu (also under the profile picture) you’ll see a checkbox with a title beside it reading Dark Theme at Night. Tap it to automatically turn on the dark theme at 7 p.m. local time. When you wake up, it will be disabled (at approximately 7 a.m.).
An App of Modern Character and Many Colors
With its simplicity and thorough beauty, it’s an app for everyone. Colorful user interfaces are usually not something I like, but Twitterrific implemented it so well. Even when this app is $5.99 (I got it when it was half price), it’ll be worth purchasing. Twitter may be pushing out third-party developers, but right now the force is strong with the latest Iconfactory release and hopefully the future for indie apps will be bright as well. So long, Tweetbot.