Chris Alexander

On Engineering

Twitter for Android

Why Twitter have got it just right

4th May, 2010

So the big news of the past few days is that Twitter have rolled out their own Twitter application to a major mobile platform - Android (n.b. I still refuse to count Blackberry as major or a platform).

Obviously I cut straight to it and got it installed - and was quite surprised by what I found.

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When I noted in the office that Twitter for Android was available, the first words out of anyone’s mouth was “bye bye, Seesmic!”. But having had a play for a few days, I’m not so sure. Here is a breakdown of a few of the major reasons.

Twitter is inexplicably and infuriatingly slow

It was obvious within seconds of launching the app that there is something clearly very wrong here. I honestly can’t believe that they actually had help from the Android team building this, and actually thought shipping it in the state it’s currently in was a good idea. It is jittery, a nightmare to use because it responds at such unreliable intervals, and it is almost unusable at times it is lagging so much.

Now I would take this criticism if it was an old G1 running 1.5 or something, but I’m playing with this on a completely up to date, lightly loaded Nexus One with a 1Ghz processor - what could they possibly be doing to make it that bad with that much power behind it?!

While I’m here - the moving background and turning bird is the most annoying thing in the whole world. Ever.

The design isn’t suited to Twitter

Stupid backgrounds and animations aside, the layout of the app is more like the Facebook app rather than any other client we’ve seen on any other platform. The main screen doesn’t provide enough information, and it is too many touches to get from one screen to another - it is simply impractical.

Tweets are also rendered way too large, so you can only read a handful on a screen.

There are also some features missing - or at least, I can’t find them. I would also love to use more than one account and get notifications for them too!

It’s not all bad

Alright, this may have been a bit demanding of me.

The notifications are actually pretty good, and it’s good that it syncs in with your contacts - a feature I’m coming to expect in social network applications now, rather than being a nicety.

Why it’s going to succeed massively

So after an entire post of saying how poor it is, why would I come to this conclusion?

Simple really - I am a Twitter power user, out and out. I keep more accounts than I have fingers, I’m connected 24/7, and I expect the application to perform impeccably all of the time.

Twitter for Android will succeed because the average user, just getting started with Twitter and their Android phone, will be really glad of its simplicity, ease of use and practicality for that kind of target.

But what this does mean is that Seesmic (and the other Android Twitter apps, although I rate absolutely none of them) still has an audience, and a substantial one at that. I would be interested to hear what other power users think of Twitter’s first take at an Android app.

In short, Twitter have made a successful play for some of the Android market, and haven’t taken out all the rest of the ecosystem at the same time.