How do you keep contacts from your local iPhone address book, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks in one single, unified place? That’s the question Taptivate aims at answering with its latest app for the iPhone — the much anticipated Friends.
In the era of social networking, social graphs and Twitter trends, it’s not easy to keep up with the stream of information. We all know that. But at a wider level, it’s not simple to keep up with the people behind those information, either. Sometimes, we struggle to find a person’s contact details because we don’t know where to look. The iPhone’s address book is a thing of its own, even if Apple managed to deploy sync for contacts in MobileMe. Sync alone, however, doesn’t come to the rescue when it’s about integration with all the social services we’re subscribed to. Nor do giants like Facebook and Google help, continuously fighting with each other over contact exports and proper email access.
If most of our social connections happen online nowadays, what’s the best way to make the pieces come together in a single package? According to Taptivate, that would be an iPhone app. Friends is a beautiful contact manager and aggregator for iPhone, an app that picks contacts from your local address book and integrates them with the online services you use on a daily basis.
Once you fire up the app for the first time, it’ll take a look in your address book to fetch contacts. In Friends — and here’s the most important feature — you can log in Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and Instapaper (yes, you read that right) to let the app do some intelligent contact matching and pair the contacts previously pulled from the address book with the ones found online. What this means is simple: say I have Cody Fink in my local address book, and I had saved his email address and phone number. As I log in Facebook and Twitter (sorry, I don’t use LinkedIn and MySpace anymore) Friends will notice that I follow @codyfink on Twitter and I’m friends with him on Facebook, too. Thus, the app will create a single Cody Fink entry and assign the additional social networks to that entry. Pretty simple.
The main screen of the app features a series of tabs to get around all the contacts and material posted by your friends on the social networks you granted authorization. The first four tabs are meant for contacts, as they let you access the full list, your favorite ones, groups and calls. The app comes with its own keypad to initiate phone calls, which will open Apple’s Phone app. Friends can save recent calls started from its keypad, though. If you tap on a contact that Friends managed to find on multiple networks, you’ll see that the app will put a series of little tabs next to it to let you check on his activity online. There’s one to read all the recent messages, one to get back to the standard contact view and even a dedicated Twitter one. The Twitter interface for a single contact is nice and well designed: it lets you see the followers and following count, the profile picture (tap for full size), location / website / bio (tappable), posts, mentions and favorites. You can follow and unfollow contacts from within the app.
As a Twitter client, Friends is pretty good. The timeline interface is very clean, with chat bubbles for each status update and inline photo previews. Again, everything is tappable in Friends. Tap on a thumbnail and you’ll be brought to a full-screen view of the picture, tap on a tweet and you’ll be surprised. The single tweet view, in fact, loads both the tweet details (author, profile pic, twitter client, date), the actual message and an inline preview of the link shared, if any. If a tweet happens to contain a link, Friends will load a part of it right below the message, and you’ll have to scroll to bring up a full web view. It feels very intuitive, and I like this inline approach clearly inspired by Twitter for iPad. A web link can be opened in Safari and saved for later in Instapaper, and you can dismiss the inline web view at any time. If you tap on the author’s name in a tweet, the contact UI will come up again.
As for what you can do with a tweet: you can reply, retweet, mark as favorite, open the conversation view and forward via email. Friends’ compose window is also very nice as it enables you to select the social networks you’d like to post a message on, it’s got a URL shortener button and a shortcut to insert a picture.
Friends’ functionalities don’t stop at allowing you to check on a contact’s online activity. The bottom tabs in the main screen provide some useful filters to browse specific content shared on every social network you have authorized. For example, you can view all the videos, photos and places shared by your friends, together with all your mentions and posts from all your contacts. It’s not just limited to single contacts — it’s a complete overview.
In my opinion, Friends delivers on what many other similar apps failed in the past: providing a fast and elegant way to view the activity for the contacts you already have in your address book. Friends brings all the social networks you’re likely subscribed to in a single iPhone app powered by a beautiful interface and a solid feature set.
At $1.99 in the App Store, this is not something you want to miss. And it can only get better from now on.
Thanks to Taptivate, we’re able to give away to a lucky MacStories reader a shiny new 8GB iPod Nano. Color of the device will be decided with the winner. Shipments worldwide, not just the US. Check out the giveaway rules below.
To enter the giveaway, tweet the following message before 11.59 AM PDT (December 16th):
Win an iPod Nano on MacStories: http://mcstr.net/fQgtud
We will search Twitter.com for tweets and retweets and randomly pick up the winners.
Make sure to follow @macstoriesnet on Twitter so we can get in touch with you once the giveaway is over. If you want to increase your odds of winning, you can also leave a comment to this post.
Winners will be announced on Thursday (December 16th).
Update: And the winner of an iPod nano 8GB is Cesare Rasini. Congrats!
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