Posts tagged with "twitterrific"

Twitter Clients in 2014: An Exploration of Tweetbot, Twitterrific, and Twitter for iOS

Twitter clients used to be a UI design playground. The growing popularity of Twitter, an open API, and the rapid takeoff of the App Store contributed to the creation of a defining genre of mobile software in 2009 and 2010: the Twitter client for iPhone. In the golden days of third-party Twitter apps, a good new client would come out at least every month, with several developers pitching their own ideas for what was meant to be a mobile-first communication network.

iPhone apps and the Twitter API were a perfect match five years ago. Twitter made sense as a social network in your pocket; Apple’s iPhone OS and newly launched App Store made that a reality. As a user, there was little friction in trying multiple Twitter clients: because Twitter data was always “in the cloud”, changing clients was like choosing a different outfit each day. The core Twitter experience would always be the same; the design and preferences around it would differ from client to client.

That was a time of astonishing innovation in mobile app design. Twitterrific, the first native Twitter client for iPhone, effectively invented key aspects of modern Twitter interaction and terminology; Tweetie, perhaps the most popular Twitter client of its time, pioneered touch interaction paradigms such as pull to refresh. And then there were Weet, Osfoora, Birdfeed, Twittelator, Echofon, Tweetings, TweetList, and dozens of other apps that helped refine and redefine the idea of what Twitter on an iPhone could be.

Good Twitter clients weren’t easy to create, but the challenge they packed was intriguing and flexible. As a Twitter developer, you needed to design an app that would primarily display textual information (this was before Twitter photos), handle hyperlinks, manage interactions between users, account for different network conditions, possibly integrate with third-party sharing services years before iOS 8, and, most of all, be fast, responsive, and easy to use. The constraints of Twitter clients in 2009/2010 freed many from the struggle of coming up with an original app idea.

If you’re using an iOS app[1] today, there’s a good chance some of its features or design ideas first appeared in a Twitter client five years ago.

We know how the story moved forward. In April 2010, Twitter realized that they needed an official iOS presence on the App Store, so they bought Loren Brichter’s Tweetie, relaunched it as Twitter for iPhone, and Brichter released the (unsurprisingly genius) Twitter for iPad.[2] For a while, it looked like Tweetie would live on, but then Twitter started adding questionable features to it, and it became clear that the third-party Twitter client would be persona non grata on the App Store.

Over the years, there have been countless examples of Twitter prioritizing their own app and a closed ecosystem approach over third-party developers and improvements to the API. From the infamous quadrant and token limits to the display guidelines and constant reticence about bringing new features to the API, Twitter has been nebulous in providing an official stance on third-party clients after the Tweetie acquisition, but the subtext of their announcements has always been fairly clear to everyone in the third-party scene. Twitter wanted people to use their official app, not a third-party client.

Before the Twitter acquisition in 2010, I was using a bunch of third-party clients but I had eventually elected Tweetie as my preferred one. After Brichter’s app turned into Twitter for iPhone, I stuck to it for a while, but then I was allured by Tapbots’ promise of a Twitter client for power users. As I wrote in my original review, Tweetbot had everything I was looking for, and that was before Tapbots would bring fantastic new features that made it even more versatile.

I loved Tweetbot in a way that I didn’t love any other app for iOS. I have extremely vivid and personal memories of getting the first beta builds of Tweetbot for iPhone and iPad, and, until Editorial came around, Tweetbot was the app I spent most of my days in. From 2011 until earlier this year, I used Tweetbot every working hour of every day. Tweetbot was Twitter for me.

That’s not to say that I stopped checking in on the state of other Twitter clients for iOS, but I certainly became less curious because I had found the one. I’ve primarily continued to keep an eye on Twitterrific, but I largely ignored the third-party space for two years. Last year, the launch of iOS 7 motivated me to look for new Twitter clients again and I stumbled across new versions of TweetLogix, Echofon, and Tweet7, but my affection for Tweetbot and the fact that the majority of my Internet friends were using Tapbots’ app convinced me that I didn’t have to look for anything else.

I like to think that I’m naturally curious, but, for my Twitter client of choice, I had become complacent and fixated on the belief that the official Twitter app could never offer anything valuable again. Earlier this year, an idea started poking me in the back of my mind: if the rest of the world is using the Twitter app for iOS, shouldn’t I give it another chance?

This realization came from a simple occasion: I was having dinner out with some friends, and I noticed that they were using the Twitter app for iPhone to read news and follow their favorite celebrities. Tweetbot was Twitter for me and I was certain that I could never switch to another app, but they seemed to be just fine with the official app and its lack of streaming, mute filters, quick actions, and all those other great details Tweetbot had. “They’re not power users”, I thought, and that settled it.

Still. For someone who likes to think he’s curious and writes about apps for a living, my unwillingness to at least try the app from the service I use every day was remarkable in its shortsightedness. Twitter had changed since 2011, and it wasn’t meant for power users. The rest of the world was using Twitter through the official apps and I thought that I knew better than anyone else. So, a fun experiment began:

I started using the official Twitter client as my main Twitter app on my iPhone and iPad.

For the past six months, I’ve been reevaluating my entire Twitter experience based on the apps I use to read tweets and interact with people. The idea made a lot more sense once I stepped out of my preconceptions: I wanted to understand what 2014 Twitter was like and if that meant sacrificing my nerd cred and use a Muggle’s Twitter app, so be it. But at the same time, I’ve gone back and forth between Twitter and third-party clients, primarily out of habit, but also because they still offer powerful features and design details that I appreciate.

I didn’t want to focus on the history of Twitter clients, my thoughts on Twitter’s policies, or every single Twitter app currently available for iOS 8. I also couldn’t compare every single feature or design decision for every possible scenario a Twitter client could be used in.

Instead, I attempted to address my curiosity from a utilitarian standpoint. Given the three most popular Twitter apps for iOS (Twitter, Tweetbot, and Twitterrific), I wanted to slowly evaluate their features for my use case. To do this, I assembled a list of features I need a Twitter client to be capable of handling and I started taking notes every time I switched between clients. I’ve been doing this since early June.

I’ve spent weeks comparing features and changing apps to understand the kind of experience they want to promote. But implementation details and design differences aside, I also kept wondering the same question: was the real Twitter different from the third-party clients I used for three years?

What’s 2014 Twitter like on iOS?

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Twitterrific 5.8 with Share Sheets

Twitterrific, the popular Twitter client by The Iconfactory, was updated this week with support for native iOS 8 share sheets, a new way to search for users when composing a tweet, and other improvements. I've always been impressed by The Iconfactory's commitment to Twitterrific, so this week I took version 5.8 for a spin.

I like how share sheets have been implemented in the app. Like Tweetbot, you can tap & hold on links in the timeline and you'll get action and share extensions in exchange for the ability to preview the full URL; you can also share directly from web views. What I like, however, is that you can tap & hold any tweet to instantly show the share sheet and pass its URL to extensions. I often use tweets as todos, and being able to save links to tweets with extensions in Twitterrific is fast, easy, and, overall, nice. Especially on the iPad – where Tweetbot hasn't been updated and the Twitter app doesn't support native share sheets – this aspect of Twitterrific is extremely welcome.

Twitterrific 5.8 is available on the App Store.

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Twitterrific Goes Freemium

With the latest 5.7 update released today, Twitterrific for iOS, The Iconfactory's popular Twitter client, has gone freemium: the app is now free to download with In-App Purchases to unlock more features and remove ads from the app. For those who have been around to witness Twitterrific's evolution through the years, this move actually marks the return of The Iconfactory's client to a freemium business model with ads.

From the company's official blog post:

Twitterrific has been available in the App Store since day one and we’ve experimented with different revenue models in the past, including the one we’re returning to today. Our hope is that this helps get Twitterrific into more people’s hands than ever before so they can enjoy the simple beauty of reading and posting tweets once again. The update also includes some improvements including upping the number of tweets the timeline can hold to 500, something users have been requesting more and more.

The Iconfactory's Gedeon Maheux published his thoughts on the new strategy in a separate blog post:

There are lots of risks with moving to this type of revenue model, but version 4 of Twitterrific was by far our most successful and that version was supported by ad revenue from The Deck. No doubt levels of support will increase dramatically for us but that’s part of the trade-off of having successful, thriving software. I’m also personally curious to see if moving to the free model and increasing the app’s downloads by at least 1 or 2 orders of magnitude will improve Twitterrific’s search results in the App Store.

For existing customers who bought Twitterrific 5.0 when it launched in December 2012, all features will be automatically unlocked by default. Twitterrific's renewed freemium approach comes at an interesting time: Apple is testing a feature to enable customers to find more specific, relevant apps in search results (whose ranking is affected by the number of downloads, which a freemium strategy can facilitate), and Twitter is still enforcing a token limit on third-party clients. While news of third-party Twitter apps exceeding their token limits aren't new on other platforms, popular clients for iOS such as Tweetbot and Twitterrific have so far managed to always accommodate new users without issues.

It'll be interesting to see how going freemium will affect Twitterrific's popularity and relevance in search results; in the past months, the app received several enhancements such as live streaming and background refresh. Features that are now part of the In-App Purchase include tweet translation, Today view, and push notifications, which are automatically unlocked using iOS 7's receipt validation for existing customers.

Twitterrific 5.7 is available on the App Store.


Twitterrific 5.6 With Live Streaming

Hey! Live streaming for Twitterrific is really here. It works over Wi-Fi, and can be enabled by toggling the setting in the settings. Live streaming works similarly to "pin timeline" settings in other apps, where enabling live streaming makes it so that you're always viewing the latest tweets in your timeline. You can scroll around, but the timeline will jump to the most recent tweet when left idle (useful for anyone who docks their iPhone in a cradle at their desk). On the flip side, Live streaming keeps the display turned on, which can unintentionally drain your battery if you set your phone down or forget to put it to sleep. I think it needs some fine tuning before it's just right.

Something to keep in mind is that Twitterrific enabled background refreshing in a previous update, which fetches tweets when you're outside of the app. If you only check the app a few times a day, Live streaming might not be such a big deal. If you're always on Twitter, however, Live streaming is worth turning on, despite some caveats.

The other biggie found in Twitterrific 5.6 is list management. You can create, add people to, and remove people from lists. You can create and delete lists, as well as set whether they're private. I would expect to find a lot of this functionality in the sidebar, but Twitterrific has it tucked away in a contextual menu. Creating and managing lists is done by tapping and holding on an avatar in your timeline, selecting "Manage in Lists," and going from there. I kept looking for list settings, a hidden add button, and kept wondering what I was missing — it's pretty well hidden. You can also get to it by tapping the gear icon when viewing someone's profile.

As for the smaller things, you can now view images in Direct Messages, as well as copy discussions from the share menu.

Live streaming for Twitterrific has obviously been a long time coming. Twitterrific 5 has been a series of big incremental improvements, starting with things like Push Notifications and Muffling, and performance continues to blow me away. To celebrate their big update, Twitterrific 5.6 is $0.99 for a limited time in the App Store, and those who've previously purchased the app can download the update for free. And you're getting a lot of bang for your buck: the app works across iPhone and iPad.

Perhaps the last remaining question is when is The Iconfactory going to bring these updates back to the Mac?



Twitterrific Revisited for iOS 7

Twitterrific, for a long time, was my mainstay Twitter app. It’s beautiful, functional, and extremely fast, but I’ve found myself gravitating away towards Tweetbot and Twitter’s own app. It’s not that I don’t like Twitterrific, but I needed a change of scenery, and Twitter’s own Connect tab has spoiled me with a wealth of information such as follows, RTs, and yellow stars intermingled with mentions — things I swore I never cared about. I think the biggest killer for me has been the prolonged wait for an updated Twitterrific on the Mac, which feels outdated in comparison to its iOS counterpart.

The neat thing about Twitterrific was that it was practically already ready for iOS 7. At least visually, Twitterrific had already adopted thin fonts, bright neon colors that go great with the iPhone 5c, and a sleek barebones interface. This doesn’t even account for Twitterrific’s unique layout; much of the app doesn’t really conform to traditional iOS conventions anyway (consider the tab bar at the top of the screen rather than the bottom). With iOS 7 the visual updates are relatively minor, with wire-thin icons and small visual updates prevalent throughout. Not even Ollie changed too much in Twitterific’s new stark white icon.

Twitterrific’s biggest notable update is background refreshing (The Iconfactory calls it “fetching”). Streaming isn’t something Twitterrific has been known for, but as long as the app is kept in the background, it will load new tweets in so they’ll be ready to read when you open the app. That to me makes Twitterrific much more viable as a daily Twitter app.[1]

There’s lots of minor updates. You can tweet links directly from the in-app browser (great feature) and you can additionally opt to open links in Chrome. Various links are now tappable in bios. They’re all things that continue to make Twitterrific super friendly.

In fact, of all the current Twitter apps, I’d say Twitterrific is still the most friendly. Gestures are broad, sensible, and fast to execute. Twitterrific’s blazing performance continues to be stellar: tweets load unbelievably quickly as you swipe to view conversations. The core experience is about messages, whereas Twitter’s official app feels like it teeters on personal branding and brand engagement, while Tweetbot is dense with features but a little slower and not yet updated for iOS 7.

Twitterrific for iOS 7 is largely the same as its predecessors, but it continues to get faster in every iteration. I don’t know how much more performance The Iconfactory can wring out of their app before Twitterrific flies off the face of the phone. With refreshed graphics, speedy improvements, and gesture updates that better let Twitterrific mingle with iOS 7’s native gestures, you might want to consider taking another look at the blue bird if you haven’t already.

Twitterrific can be downloaded from the App Store for $2.99 for a limited time, 50% off the regular price.


  1. In fact, I almost don’t like Apple’s new multitasking interface for this reason. It encourages people to close apps, but if you do, those apps can’t perform background tasks. The new multitasking interface is perhaps misleading and counterintuitive for this reason.  ↩


Twitterrific 5.2: Push Notification Rollout, Profile Banners, and Storify for Discussions

Push Notification Beta Alert

Push Notification Beta Alert

Redesigned from the ground up, Twitterrific launched last December with a fresh design that pleasantly surprised long time fans of the app. Breaking ground on the original iPhone, Twitterrific has relatively stayed the same for years, subtracting unnecessary features and focusing on delivering a robust core experience. Today, people expect more from their Twitter clients, such as the ability to mute hashtags and receive push notifications for follows and replies. The Iconfactory addressed the former through their last update with muffling, a simple way to shush users, hashtags, and domains on the timeline. Yesterday, The Iconfactory began addressing the latter by introducing push notifications in Twitterrific 5.2.

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Twitterrific 5.1 Adds Muffling, a New Font, and Picks Up Speed

Muffling

Muffling

Sorry Zac! I promise I did it just for the screenshot.

When The Iconfactory launched Twitterrific 5, they launched an app that reflected a specific vision of what a Twitter client should be. Twitterrific certainly hasn’t lost its charm since it launched back in December. Setting itself apart with a modern interface and clever gestures, Twitterrific started anew with a clean slate and plenty of room to add features thanks to feedback from their fans. Throughout the last few months, The Iconfactory has been progressively iterating Twitterrific, leading up to the first major update which launched yesterday evening.

The most notable feature in Twitterrific 5.1 is muffling. It’s muting made simple.

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