I was really looking forward to the new major update of Twitterrific for iOS. Not that there was anything wrong with version 4.4.10 — I was simply curious to see what the Iconfactory guys would come up with this time. And they didn’t disappoint. (They didn’t disappoint me anyway).
As you can see in the images above, Twitterrific’s visual path from version 2 to version 5 has been a path of progressive de-cluttering. It is also evident how the latest version introduces significant changes in the UI. The details I really like are the new colour palettes of the light and dark themes, the improved customisation options, and something I was missing since version 2: the row of buttons for Tweets, Mentions and Messages, that can ‘light up’ when there are new items. I’m glad they’ve reappeared over the main timeline: they’re both faster to access and are useful status indicators, as I can see at a glance if there are new replies or private messages waiting for me.
Thanks to the improved customisation options now you’re not limited to just choose a dark/light theme and specify a Text Size as in version 4.x, but you can also choose the size of the avatars in the timeline, the amount of line spacing and — last but not least — your preferred font (Helvetica, Proxima Nova, Signika, Museo Slab, Calluna). There’s also the nice option of having the Dark theme kick in at night.
These things may look trivial on the surface, but they really help make reading Twitter a pleasant experience both on the iPhone and the iPad. I was happy with Twitterrific 4’s somewhat fixed settings, but now that the visual elements can be tweaked a bit more, I found out that, for example, I prefer the Light theme with Proxima Nova and a tight line spacing on my iPad, while I favour the Dark theme with Helvetica and a more generous line spacing on the iPhone (see the images of Twitterrific 4 and 5 above, which are actual screenshots from my iPhone).
The little animations are also a lovely touch: pulling to refresh is more fun, as you’ll see an egg hatching and Ollie (the Twitterrific bird) pop out and fly away. And yes, gestures are another welcome detail. I’m usually a button guy when it comes to user interfaces, since I believe that buttons are more obvious and accurate, but as more and more iOS apps are implementing the very natural pull-to-refresh gesture, it was something I was really missing in Twitterrific. I’ve also got used to sweeping left to reply and sweeping right to show the related conversation.
All this makes for a great user interaction and experience. The new Twitterrific feels light, snappy, responsive. This is an obvious result of the reworking that has taken place behind the scenes. This process of rebuilding an app from the ground up has also resulted in the loss of certain other customisation options, like the ability to choose the Media Upload service, Link shortener and Bookmark service (although if you have Instapaper or Pocket installed on your device, Twitterrific will let you use those to save links). This ‘lightness’, feature-wise, seems to have annoyed more than few people, from what I could see in my Twitter timeline, and I noticed certain destructive criticism towards Twitterrific that I consider unwarranted. If you wanted a Twitter client with all the features of, say, Tweetbot, just go buy Tweetbot. Different apps bring different choices to the table: that’s diversity, and that’s a good thing. In the afore-linked post, Craig Hockenberry has explained what’s behind some of the design choices the developers have taken for this new version of Twitterrific, and I happen to agree with a lot of them.
I’m not a casual Twitter user, yet I don’t miss some of the features other people seem to be awfully missing. Push notifications, for example. I didn’t imagine it was such a deal-breaker. I didn’t imagine that there were so many people who wanted to get notified every time someone mentions or messages them. To me, push notifications are mostly annoying, and I’m with Hockenberry when he writes: Personally, I find myself actively disabling notifications in most of the apps I install these days. Notifications are great when used in moderation, but it’s very easy to use them to the point of distraction. These days, the only notifications I really pay attention to on my iOS devices are work-related emails.
Others are annoyed by the lack of inline photos: do you really want to see every picture put up by the people you follow? I prefer to read tweets and see the pictures I want to see after deliberately clicking on their links, so I actually appreciate that Twitterrific isn’t shoving images in my face like other clients or web interfaces do. (If by ‘inline photos’ people mean the ability to expand a photo in place inside the timeline, then I don’t understand what the big deal is in having pictures displayed in an overlayed window like Twitterrific does. Or am I missing something obvious here?)
That people aren’t happy for the lack of mute filters is a bit more understandable, considering the noise level of auto-tweets generated by external services. But these and other things, as the developers themselves have admitted, are on their radar and on Twitterrific 5’s roadmap. In rebuilding the app, their choice has been to start with a core of basic features and to create a solid ground to build upon, and I respect their decisions. Overall, I’m really pleased by Twitterrific 5 and if you want a clean, fast application that delivers a pleasant reading experience, then I suggest you try it. If you’re a long-time Twitterrific user, version 5 won’t disappoint. If you want more customisation under the bonnet, if features like a streaming timeline, support for editing lists, push notifications, or timeline filtering/muting are a deal-breaker for you, then you’ll be happier with other clients like Tweetbot.
(Image of Twitterrific 2 and 3 taken from 148apps and slightly modified)
- 1. The only thing I don’t get is why the in-app browser doesn’t take the whole screen in the iPad version of the app, like before. Having to navigate a website in a smaller window can be impractical.↩