Twitter was, quite literally, made for mobile phones. Its character limit was created in part to make the posting of tweets via text message possible and even very basic mobile phones can manage Twitter accounts and post tweets relatively well.
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, when you use a smartphone, such as an iPhone, that your mobile device becomes a real Twitter powerhouse, one capable of rivaling many desktop clients in terms of usability and features.
On the iPhone, two apps have emerged at the top of the pile, Twitterrific and Tweetie (though Twitterfon remains a highly-regarded free alternative). Both apps have their supporters and their detractors but both of them have turned into very powerful Twitter applications.
For the most part, the two applications mirror each other feature-to-feature, so, in order to compare them, we have to look a bit deeper at what distinguishes them. In the end, it is tough to say which app is the “best”, even though there are many people who one app will clearly fit their needs better.
Both of the applications let you do most of your basic Twitter management functions. You can read your stream, check your mentions, read your messages, perform searches, follow users and post new tweets, including retweets and replies. Both also integrate with twitter images services such as Twitpic and Yfrog and can interact with your phone’s GPS to find other Twitter users near you.
They also have many of the same advanced features such as multiple themes amd interaction with Instapaper. Both also have full desktop clients available for OS X. In short, both of these applications can be the only app name you’ll need to know in Twitter clients, both on your phone and on your computer.
The bottom line, and most important thing in this review, is that both Tweetie and Twitterrific are very powerful Twitter clients out of the box. Though they lack the multi-column interface of Tweetdeck and other desktop clients, they can do almost anything their big brothers can.
Right off the bat, Twitterrific has several key advantages over Tweetie, namely that there is a free, ad-supported version of the client available and it
can manage multiple accounts (Note: Both can manage multiple accounts though Tweetie buries the function deep in their settings: Thanks to David and Thomas). These two things alone will make it the application of choice on the iPhone for many users.
However, the two applications have very different user interfaces. Tweetie, across the bottom, has buttons for your timeline, mentions, messages, favorites and “More”, which links to searches and various other tools. Twitterrific, on the other hand, has a timeline button but the other ones across the bottom are a new tweet button, which Tweetie keeps perpetually at the top, an asterisks button that gives you more information about a person or tweet (this button isn’t available until you select a tweet) and a filter button that makes available the replies, messages, favorites, etc.
Tweetie, for me, keeps my most commonly used functions closest by. For simple tasks such as checking to see if a new tweet generated anty replies or reading a DM you got an email about, Tweetie requires fewer key presses. Also, Tweetie seems much faster due in large part that you can set how many Tweets Tweetie downloads and can interact with the application even as it is downloading updates.
For example, if you are checking mentions, you can pull up Tweetie, press the reply button and wait for it to load the tweets, which usually happens right after the button is pressed. Twitterrific, on the other hand, “locks up” until the tweets are downloaded, all 100 of them in most cases, and then you can move your way to the replies page.
Tweetie also feels faster when uploading images to Twitpic or another image loading service, likely due to higher default compression, and feels quicker when posting a new tweet.
On a wifi connection, this a mountain out of a molehill, most people will not notice the difference. But on a cell connection, especially one that isn’t 3G, there is a very noticeable difference.
Another area that Tweetie excels is in the way it displays Tweets, always managing to get more information on the screen despite having bigger buttons. Where, in some cases, Twitterrific might only display four full tweets, Tweetie gets five or six, without sacrificing aesthetics or readability. This may seem like a small improvement, but is huge when trying to scroll through a long list of tweets. (Note: Twitterrific does allow users to set the font size and a smaller option does produce more tweets on the screen by a slim margin, but sacrifices the avatars.)
However, though Tweetie is more usable for most tasks, one area that is confusing is the settings panel. There, currently, is no way to adjust the settings within Tweetie, you have to exit the program and go to the “Settings” application in the iPhone itself to edit Tweetie’s options. Tweetie also doesn’t do a great job of explaining some of its options, though at least one of them is intended as a joke, namely “Popularity Enhancer”, the lack of documentation and clear explanations can be frustrating.
Still, in the end, it is a rather minor point since most people will set their options once and never come back to them, at least until they write a review of the application.
Last week I had the opportunity live tweet a wedding from my iPhone and I switched back and forth between the two applications through out it. Tweetie simply worked out better. It was faster and more responsive, especially over the 3G network and it enabled me to get more tweets and more images off than Twitterrific.
Though Twitterrific has some great features, especially the customizable feature that lets you edit the way the program responds to taps, double taps and triple taps on the avatar, it just felt slightly slower than Twitterrific and that really hurt in a critical moment.
That being said, if you tweet mostly from a wifi connection, need multiple account functionality or really don’t feel like paying for a Twitter application, Twitterrific may be the best application for you. However, those that simply want the fastest, most efficient and most intuitive app, at any cost, will likely favor Tweetie.
In the end though, it is easy to see how one could disagree with me. I found Tweetie to be the easiest to use, but I also used Twitterrific second, which you find intuitive could be different and the speed issue, though important when live tweeting, isn’t a deal-breaker in most cases.
I would say give both a try but, since Tweetie doesn’t offer a free version, that isn’t practical. Instead, I say give Twitterrific a try and, if you find its shortcomings annoying, consider paying the few extra bucks for Tweetie. If you like it, consider spending the few bucks for Twitterrific Pro and getting rid of the ads.
Either way, you’ll have a great Twitter application on your phone.