Chimp: Enjoy Audio and Video on App.net

App.net developers have produced a wide variety of applications, ranging from simple ports of Twitter apps to innovative apps that support App.net’s file storage API. Apps that support the service’s basic user timeline are plentiful, but the spotlight has shifted to the apps that ditch conventional design and support App.net’s new and innovative features. Chimp is one of the newest App.net clients that does just this. Today we’ll put the app under the microscope to see just how well it stands up to the competition.

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Getting Started

The App.net developers recently released App.net Passport, a clever discovery tool for App.net apps and services. Just as the classic paper passport serves as an entry key to other countries, the App.net Passport grants users access to other apps, permitting them to log in without a username and password. Unfortunately, Chimp doesn’t yet take advantage of this service, meaning that users are forced to enter their login credentials.

Chimp lacks support for App.net Passport and 1Password, so users will have to input login credentials manually.

Chimp lacks support for App.net Passport and 1Password, so users will have to input login credentials manually.

Chimp makes a solid first impression with a coherent blue theme and a cheerful chimp overlooking the user feed. The blue border that surrounds the user timeline takes up valuable space and is all too reminiscent of the Twitter app revamp that killed off the remaining bits of Tweetie. The app lacks support for App.net’s stream marker service, so those who depend on multiple apps will be sorely disappointed.

Chimp departs from traditional navigation by offering a Path-esque navigation button in portrait view, which provides quick access to starred posts, check-ins, global view, user profile, search, and settings. This small button is replaced by a side bar in portrait view. The page-control bar that stretches across the bottom of the screen is a slight waste of space, but users can disable this in the app settings. Swipe left and right, in the main feed view, to view messages and mentions respectively.

Swipe left from the main timeline to access patter rooms and messages.

Swipe left from the main timeline to access patter rooms and messages.

While most apps save detailed post info for a post info view, Chimp displays this information directly in the timeline. Users can see which client was used to post, as well as how many times a post has been reposted, starred, or responded to. The app displays military time for each post, as opposed to the time since posting. Instead of a reply gesture, Chimp places a microscopic Reply button into each post, underneath the post time. Although the tap target is large enough, this tiny button has plenty of room to grow by a few pixels. Chimp can also display inline media, but the photo presentation lacks the elegance present in apps like Felix. Inline media can be disabled in the app settings.

Chimp offers many familiar posting tools. Users can attach images, or take new snapshots with the device camera. The app offers powerful photo filters, stickers and editing tools via the Aviary photo editing platform. Chimp supports audio or video posts and is one of the few apps to support post locations. Tap the thumbtack and choose a location to pin it to the current post. The most recent update of Chimp adds a powerful attachment manager, where users can see a list of all attachments and choose which attachments they would like to keep or delete. All uploaded media is stored using App.net’s file storage system, and users can even view media uploaded via Chimp at the Chimp.li website. The app offers unique posting features, but standards such as predictive mentions and hashtags are nowhere to be found.

Tap the attachment counter to access media attachments.

Tap the attachment counter to access media attachments.

Taps and Gestures

Chimp includes support for several gestures, although users may find themselves scratching their heads as to why certain gestures trigger seemingly unrelated actions. Long pressing post content reveals an action bar, where posts can be quoted, reposted, starred, or shared. Tapping post content brings users to the post conversation, and tapping an avatar takes users straight to the poster’s stream. Tap the username to view a user’s profile. Post images can be copied directly from the timeline, without having to enter the post info view. Users can long press the chimp icon to reveal their complete App.net photo library.

While there is no way to interact with these photos, the ability to browse the photo library is an excellent feature. Tapping the same chimp icon reveals a mysterious pause/play bar that hints at a few interesting audio features; however, it’s bizarre that both of these unrelated actions are linked to the same icon.

Long press the Chimp icon to access the user image library or tap the icon to access playback controls.

Long press the Chimp icon to access the user image library or tap the icon to access playback controls.

Tap and hold the menubar to show/hide the iPhone status bar.

Audible

Most App.net clients focus on text, but Chimp offers some powerful features for those seeking to create and consume audio content on the social network. The app features support for the creation of audio posts, and it’s even possible to respond to a post with audio, via a simple long press of a user avatar. Tap the avatar again to end and send the response. Users can also tap an audio link in an App.net post, and continue to browse, while the post plays in the background. This is where the previously mentioned play/pause bar comes into play. Audio content, from services like bli.ms, is represented with a play icon within the post. Tap the post to play the content and the audio will continue to play, even if a user navigates to a different screen.

The play/pause bar can also be used to pause and play the background content. This feature is useful, since users don’t have to navigate back to the post to pause the audio content, but it’s only available from the main timeline view. Despite this flaw, Chimp’s implementation of audio features is unique, and it will be interesting to see how this developer fleshes out the audio features in future updates.

Patter

Patter is App.net’s version of a chatroom service. Users can create or join Patter rooms, and room topics range from movies to iPhone home screens. While it’s not possible to subscribe to new Patter rooms within Chimp, users can view all of their current Patter subscriptions in the app’s Messages view. The circle to the right of the room description indicates whether or not there are unread posts. The app handles Patter relatively well, but it does occasionally choke while loading rooms, requiring the user to reboot the app. Users can post to a Patter room, using the same features available for regular posts. Patter posts can also be broadcasted (posted) to the user’s timeline. Chimp uses paw print icons to denote Patter room links, which makes them easy to identify throughout App.net content.

Chimp offers excellent Patter support.

Chimp offers excellent Patter support.

Performance

Chimp is relatively stable and hardly ever crashes, and the most recent update eliminates many of the quirks and small annoyances that hampered the overall experience. There are a few corners of Chimp that could use a bit more polish, such as the poorly padded search boxes that cut off text. The app also skews user cover images, which becomes painfully apparent in the iPad version. Overall, the user experience grows stronger with each update.

Chimp supports inline media and mentions.

Chimp supports inline media and mentions.

Conclusion

The lack of stream syncing support and predictive mentions will be deal breakers for many, but Chimp may be the client for those looking for more powerful audio features and location-based posting. It is relatively inexpensive for a universal app, but those looking for a robust iPad experience will be sorely disappointed. The app’s iPad version feels like an afterthought, with visual glitches and inconsistencies galore. Chimp still needs a bit more polish, but its quirkiness and unique features make it an interesting addition to the App.net lineup.


Summary

Chimp is an App.net client that supports video and audio posts and stores all user media via App.net File Storage. The Chimp developers also provide a Chimp.li media portal, where users can view all of the media that they upload via Chimp.

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