Tapbots popularly known for their iPhone app called Convertbot have been successful in creating buzz and excitement around their apps as they make their apps beautifully intuitive and unique in design.
On Wednesday, Tapbots released their latest app which is a Twitter client for iPhone and iPod touch called “Tweetbot – A Twitter Client with Personality”. The news about the release spread like wildfire among avid Twitter users and our timeline (@Touch_Reviews) was quickly populated with users praising the beautiful interface.
In less than 24 hours when we checked the top paid social networking app category on the App Store it was no surprise that Tweetbot was at number one position. So, we went ahead and compared the official app called ‘Twitter’ (Free) and Tweetbot ($1.99).
We compared the user interface and the features of both apps. Overall we felt that at its core Tweetbot is just like the official Twitter app but with exceptional design, unique implementation of gestures and smart use of space available.
So, should you pay $1.99 for an app when an equally powerful free version exists on the App Store? Read on and find out.
When you launch Tweetbot for iPhone you can instantly notice beautiful design elements which offers something different when compared with apps which provide native app experience on iOS. While the official client lets you browse trends or search for tweets before you login, in order to use Tweetbot you must first login or create an account. Twitter for iPhone will allow you to create an account within the app providing a native experience while Tweetbot will send you to twitter’s mobile site in an embedded browser to signup.
Both apps support multiple accounts and once you’ve set up your account you’ll begin to notice some major differences in the way you interact with the app.
Tweetie (now Twitter for iPhone) originally brought ‘release to refresh’ and swipe left on an update to reveal more options. Since, then we have seen these gestures in many apps on the App Store. Tweetbot have gone an extra mile here and added their own version of such smart gestures.
In the official app you swipe left or right to reveal options to retweet, reply, mark favorite, view user profile, attachment and more. In Tweetbot you tap on a particular tweet to reveal a ‘drawer’ with similar options but the developers didn’t just stop there. If you swipe to the right you will be able to view the conversation and if you swipe to the left you can view few related tweets, this works with mentions too.
Your timeline is packed with features so you can perform many actions without ever requiring to tap through different screens to finally do what you wanted to do. For example, just double tap a particular tweet in your timeline to activate links, tap and hold to reveal options to copy, email, translate or post link to tweet. There’s even a triple tap gesture which can be configured to instantly reply, retweet, favorite or translate. Even though it’s great to have more options and customize the behavior of the app with new gestures, in our initial testing ‘triple tap’ didn’t feel very intuitive as we felt it was easier to reveal the drawer and then select an option.
The double tap gesture activates links and opens the drawer with more options and this exposed one of Tweetbot’s weaknesses. If a particular tweet has a link and you just wanted to double tap to view ‘tweet detail’ then you need to be careful about where you are tapping. If you accidentally double tapped on a link (intending to just view tweet detail) then the app will misunderstand the gesture and open the URL instead. When a twitter app makes links active in a timeline it is bound to face this issue. I stopped using Twittelator Pro as I would often end up accidentally tapping on a link when I just wanted to view tweet detail. This is where the official app shines as it does not have any active links in the timeline and you must first tap to view tweet detail and then if interested view the URL mentioned.
We found that user profile is very well organized in Tweetbot when compared with Twitter for iPhone. It makes it absolutely easy to add new users to lists, view users public lists and also has a nice blue notification on the top which tells you if a particular user is following you or not.
Tweetbot provides 5 actions in the tab bar whereas Twitter for iPhone gives you 4 actions. This alone makes the app experience a whole lot better in Tweetbot. Not only you have more ‘visible’ options but you can also customize them by tapping and holding any one of the last two sections in the tab bar and select from retweets by others, search, favorites or lists.
We found composing a new tweet to be easier in Twitter for iPhone than in Tweetbot. The official app features handy shortcuts to access quick features like adding @ username, # tag and location was just a tap away. However, in Tweetbot you first have to tap on an option button which further reveals such basic functionality which should been accessible on the bar above the keyboard.
Another interesting observation we made was that when you want to reply to tweet with more than one users then Tweetbot will give you an option to either ‘reply to all’ or just ‘reply’. This is done more intuitively on the official app. When you hit reply it just mentions all the usernames in that particular tweet and highlights the second one so that you can quickly delete it in case you want to reply one person.
Both apps support saving of drafts but in the official app once you saved a draft you had to dig into the options to retrieve it but Tweetbot makes it a whole lot easier. When you are composing a new tweet the option button above the keyboard in Tweetbot allows you to quickly browse through your drafts and choose the one you wish to use. This makes draft management much more usable and efficient.
Direct Messages in Tweebot just like the official app appear in conversation view. Twitter for iPhone uses SMS composing UI for direct messages whereas Tweetbot uses a consistent user interface where you write a DM just like you compose a tweet.
When you want to send a new DM in Tweetbot you will see ‘Find People’ option which is strange since in the official version you can instantly search for your followers, pick one and send a DM. Whereas in Tweetbot you first type in the username or just the name in the search field, then tap search and then select the user you intended to DM. It was surprising to note that Tapbots didn’t implement a simpler user interface to DM a particular user.
If you use lists on Twitter to follow particular interests then you are going to love Tweetbot. The app makes it really easy to switch between your timeline with everyone you follow and replace it with any list you created. This really makes lists come alive and will also encourage users to make more lists as you can easily switch your timelines.
The app also allows you to choose preferred service for URL shortening, image/video uploading and Read It Later account.
We were very impressed with the overall design and thoughtful implementation of some of the core features of Twitter.
However, the app is still not perfect. Tweetbot does not feature push notifications whereas the official version which is a free app offers this feature. Tapbots say that you can configure push notifications via boxcar which is a free app but we feel notifications should be a part of the app rather than having the user download another app.
We didn’t find a way to delete direct messages and the ability to search nearby tweets. While it’s good to have gestures like swipe right to reveal conversation and swipe left to show related tweets, most of the times no results showed up for related tweets or conversation which in turn uses your API limit. So, instead of having a user guess this, there could be notification which indicates that a particular update has a related tweet or is a part of a conversation.
So, now we will try to answer the question which most of you probably wanted to ask right at the beginning. Is Tweetbot worth $1.99 when the official app is offered for free.
If you prefer beautiful and colorful user interface with all the bells and whistles then your obvious choice would be Tweetbot. But, it doesn’t stop there. Tweetbot caters to all the needs of an avid Twitter user who wants access to smart gestures for quick access to basic functions. And then it also caters to more advanced users who maintain active lists and prefer their timelines being more organized.
On the other hand, if you just use Twitter for normal use and want to just focus on updating your timeline, reading follower updates then the official app is still a great option. It does feature some of the more advanced features but Tweetbot just does it more beautifully. However, if you can’t do without native support for push notifications and don’t use boxcar then the official client is a better option for you.