Since Tweetbot for the iPhone came out on April 13, 2011, I’ve been using it as my main Twitter client. It’s good, and the interface is slick and gorgeous, but I already find it lacking in some significant ways compared to Echofon, my main Twitter client for the past several months.
First, it doesn’t have inline photo previews. I absolutely love this feature of Echofon and it’s one of the first things I look for when trying out a new Twitter app. I tap on most of the photos in my Twitter feed anyway and view them full-screen, but occasionally I’ll see the thumbnail of a photo someone posted and know that I don’t need or want to enlarge it. This may seem insignificant, but when not on wifi it can sometimes take a while for photos to load, and I can skip all that if I get enough information from the thumbnail. And sometimes I’m just interested in the photos people have posted, and it’s really nice to be able to scan my feed for posts that have photos. And it’s not just photo previews, it shows a little thumbnail when people post links to YouTube videos, also. The one drawback that I’ve noticed is that the thumbnails are only in your main Twitter feed, so if you drill down to someone’s timeline, the photos and videos are just links.
Second, the method Echofon uses when you want to @ reply (or “mention”) someone in a tweet is more efficient for how I use it. The idea is that the app will present you with a tappable list of options based on the letters you type after the “@” symbol. Echofon only displays people you follow, and that’s who I’m usually going to mention in a tweet. But Tweetbot displays much more than just the people you follow, from testing it it seems to display people you follow, people who follow you, people you’ve @ replied to in the past (whether or not you follow them), and even some people who’s Twitter account I’ve simply viewed. To be honest, there are so many people in the list that I’m not sure what the criteria are.
How it works is this: When composing a tweet, you type the “@” symbol and then begin typing the Twitter name of the person you want to mention. In Echofon, a row of tappable buttons with the Twitter name and picture of people matching the letters you’ve typed will appear at the bottom of the compose window. Depending on the length of Twitter names displayed, you can usually see between three and four options, and the options begin appearing when you type the first letter after the “@” symbol. In Tweetbot, a small icon (looks like the silhouette of a head and shoulders) appears under the cursor immediately after you type the “@” symbol. Tapping on the icon activates a slide-up panel with a search field at the top, a keyboard at the bottom, and a scrollable list of options in the middle. Keep typing letters to narrow the search results, and tap on the Twitter account you want to mention when you see it in the list. The Tweetbot implementation may be more powerful because it doesn’t limit you to the people you follow, but it also takes more taps to get it done. For me, the simplicity of how Echofon does it works best.
Third, there’s no companion Mac app that syncs to your first unread tweet. I use this all the time since in a typical day I’ll read my Twitter feed on a minimum of three devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook), and sometimes on five (iPhone, iPad, MacBook, work Mac, and wife’s Mac). Say you open Echofon on your iPhone during breakfast and read all your unread tweets, making your way to the top of your feed. Then you close the app. At lunch you open Echofon on your Mac and there are 30 new tweet. Echofon for Mac will auto-scroll to the first unread tweet, based on where you left off hours before on your iPhone. Then say you close the Mac app and don’t check your Twitter feed again until after dinner, this time on your iPad. Now there are 45 new tweets since you last checked on your Mac, but Echofon is syncing every time you open it, so the app on your iPad knows to mark the 30 tweets you read on your Mac as read, and auto-scrolls to the first of the 45 new tweets. I follow less than 70 people, and this feature makes sure I can always pick up where I left off, no matter what I’m using to view my Twitter feed.
With Tweetbot, the only way to pick up where you left off is to always use Tweetbot. If you use it to check Twitter in the morning then use a desktop app all day at a desk, Tweetbot won’t know you’ve already read all those tweets from during the day, and you’ll have to scroll up looking for the first tweet you don’t recognize. If Twitter would add an element to their API that synced read status of your timeline, maybe this third issue could be eliminated (assuming developers all update their apps).
I could definitely live with Tweetbot’s @ reply method, but until they address and fix my first and third issues with the app, I’ll stick with Echofon as my main Twitter client.