15th November, 2010
In terms of Twitter clients on Google’s Android mobile operating system, you’re not spoilt for choice. Among the many many clients that have appeared out there, the three “big guns” are actually pretty different. Twitter’s own, Seesmic’s and TweetDeck’s offerings each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Having given them all a good go over the past few days, I’ve come up with why I don’t really get along with any of them.
I’ve split up what I value in a Twitter client on a mobile device into categories which I’ll delve into below. These are personally what I consider in a client - if it’s not here then it’s because I just don’t care about it!
For me, notifications have to be frequent on time, useful, relevant, and ridiculously configurable. As I have mentioned in the past, I am extremely picky about notifications and find them pretty much vital, and Android’s notification system is basically the main reason I prefer it over other mobile operating systems.
TweetDeck does a pretty good job here, although there is one thing that lets it down. Notifications are customisable on a per-column basis (this means main timeline, mentions, DMs, other platforms are configurable separately), including sound / light / vibrate settings which is very impressive. Columns can be updated at custom periods, down to as low as 3 minutes each. This would be perfect, if it was not for the fact that the notifications don’t contain much of a hint as to what they contain! They simply state that there is a new mention or DM - not that useful if you want to decide from the notification itself whether or not the message requires your urgent attention or can wait.
This is where Seesmic comes in. While it has a global refresh rate and you can only customise which sections you get notifications from (not per-section options like TweetDeck) it does give you message excerpts in the notifications and tells you who sent the message, which is insanely useful for quickly deciding if you want to pay attention to it now, leave it in the notification tray, or clear the message and come back to it later.
Twitter’s own notifications are much the same as Seesmic’s, actually surprisingly similar when you look at it!
This is of course a very important part of what you do with Twitter. While I casually read every couple of hours or so during the day (sometimes every few seconds when at events etc. or only once during the day if I’m particularly busy) I also have a couple of minutes in the morning where I catch up on pretty much all the tweets since I went to sleep - as I follow just as many people in timezones +/- 5 to 10 hours as I do roughly in my time zone - which means I heavily read on the client during that period flicking through tweets.
For me, the Twitter client is basically unusable most of the time. It is suitable for catching up with a few tweets here and there, but its visual style is just way too crowded, colourful, and unclear to be of any use transitioning through a large backlog of tweets.
TweetDeck is an improvement on this. The scroll bar colouring is absolute genius, extremely clearly showing you how far you have scrolled through the timeline and how much of the timeline is new that you have not read up to. However, I had significant trouble reading tweets on the TweetDeck interface for more than a minute or so at a time. I have squashed the text size down to about 20 because the default is just way too huge to be of any considerable use, but still the colours make it tricky. I could never get on with the TweetDeck desktop, iPad or iPhone interfaces, and I don’t think this one is for me either, at least for high volume reading.
Seesmic is by far my favourite for reading. It is clean, super easy to read, gives just the right visual cues, and is generally a pleasure to read. There is one small issue, where new updates coming in at the top bump down the messages you are currently reading, which can be very annoying on extremely long readthroughs, but as it generally involves only one quick scroll down, this is not a major problem (TweetDeck does not suffer from this).
Writing is obviously vital to a Twitter client, and all of them manage this quite well. Overall, I prefer the Seesmic interface - its inline uploading of images and videos is very cool when it doesn’t have a dodgy connection (then it takes forever and is quite annoying). It also does geotagging “right”, where TweetDeck does some “Places” based thing that I really haven’t figured out. I couldn’t find how to do a new style retweet (i.e. the Twitter retweet, not RT @) on TweetDeck - as one of my friends pointed out, if you can’t figure something like that out, what does it say about the UI? Quite disappointed if they have left it out. Seesmic is great for adding favourites, retweeting, quoting and more as it fully supports the press-and-hold model which we are used to on many other Android apps which is great. TweetDeck supports this but to a lesser extent. I also couldn’t figure out how to upload videos with TweetDeck, nor change the image provider (I can’t stand yFrog).
Generally these are all quite good, depending on what you want. The Twitter ones are good for overviews of tweets, TweetDeck provides lots of utility but not much reading, and Seesmic is kind of a balance between them - in this case it’s more your preference, but I tend to use the Seesmic one as it has a one-press to the compose screen which I have mentioned above that I like a lot.
For me, currently, given my standard usage, Seesmic is the app for me. Of course I have my reasons for this (most of which are outlined here) and I will continue trying out the other ones as they get updated and as my usage changes. Send me tips for why you like what you use, and if there is something else I should try!
Find out more about the three clients on their sites - Twitter, Seesmic, TweetDeck.