I was surprised when I found this app in the App Store last week. Smartr, a free app by Factyle, is a full-featured Twitter client that, unlike the usual Twitterrific or other Twitter apps, is entirely aimed at letting you read in an uncluttered and mobile-friendly view all the links shared in your timeline or lists. In fact, Smartr might just be the closest thing to a “Flipboard for iPhone” we’ve seen yet.
The concept is simple: you log in with your Twitter account, and the app only displays messages that contain links to webpages. These status updates, however, don’t appear in the app’s timeline as the original tweets — rather, they’re formatted to be visualized with the article’s title, a thumbnail preview of the first image and a short excerpt. Just like in Flipboard, Twitter becomes a “news aggregator” of links shared by people you follow, with the app excluding unrelated material like Foursquare check-ins, pictures and tweets that don’t come with links. Smartr is a Twitter client that uses the platform to fetch content available on the web. Because of that, it also makes sure content is formatted for the iPhone’s screen with the possibility to display the original, unformatted webpage.
In the timeline, you see page previews and you can retweet or “save for later” without opening another view. The “save for later” feature is local and saves links on your device, but if you want you can also send links to Instapaper and Read It Later, natively supported by Smartr. The timeline of the app loads new entries as you scroll to the top (like Tweetie’s “pull to refresh”), and new previews are loaded as you scroll down. I noticed that scrolling can become a little slow as you scroll quickly down to the bottom of the timeline, as the app has to display the aforementioned thumbnail previews. Considering that you’ll likely scroll slowly to focus on links and read the previews, I guess this won’t really be an issue. You can tweet from Smartr, but the really cool feature is that you can switch from the timeline to your lists or one you’re subscribed to — again, just like in Flipboard. Unlike the iPad app of the year, though, you can’t have multiple timelines at once — you have to manually switch between them in the Settings screen. Still, this is quite handy. You can also create and manage lists directly from Smartr.
As you tap on a preview in the timeline, the app will open a new view with the webpage formatted for mobile view. I don’t know if Smartr is simply using Instapaper’s mobilizer functionality, but it looks very similar to it. In this same view, you can retweet, mark as favorite, publish to Tumblr / Posterous / Facebook or just to the original webview. Once you’re done reading, you can go back to the timeline and reload it to check for new articles, and so forth.
The best thing about Smartr is that it’s very easy to use and it just works. I’m sure when Flipboard for iPhone comes out it will offer way more functionalities and social integration with Google Reader support and multiple timelines, but right now Smartr provides an excellent way to read links shared on Twitter. Most of all, it’s free in the App Store. Give it a try.
• You should follow the author on Twitter here.