SAN FRANCISCO, 1 AUGUST 2008 - Twitter is a fun service that lets you keep in touch with your friends and other people you only wish you knew. Like many people, I've come to rely on it as a backchannel that keeps me in touch with my colleagues and friends in ways that e-mail and instant messaging simply can't. And since the iPhone was first released, I've used Web interfaces to Twitter to read and post Twitter items, known as "tweets," when I'm on the go.
With the release of the App Store, there are now several native Twitter clients for the iPhone. All of these programs show immense promise as well as numerous warts.
Twitterrific: The Iconfactory's Twitterrific
The Iconfactory's Twitterrific is my favorite Mac client for the Twitter social-messaging service, and the new iPhone edition of Twitterrific is my favorite of the first generation of iPhone apps.
Twitterrific displays tweets from your contacts and lets you send tweets. The program includes integration with twitpic.com, so you can take a photo (or pick one from your photo library) and the program will automatically upload it and embed its URL in your tweet. An embedded Web browser lets you tap on user names or hyperlinks and view the contents without having to switch out of the program and into Safari.
The program's interface is excellent, combining simplicity with solid functionality. A series of slide-out "hint" screens appear for new users, cleverly helping to teach you how the program works. But I found the program's large single-tweet view to be mostly a waste of time.
Although Twitterrific provides me with 95 percent of what I use Twitter for, there's still plenty of room for the iPhone version to grow, especially given the tough competition of several excellent iPhone-optimized Twitter web interfaces, most notably Hahlo. Twitterrific can't display all the messages from a given friend; also, it doesn't let you filter tweets to only see your direct messages, messages replying to your tweets, or a list of your own recent tweets. The program's scrolling also feels sluggish. (A forthcoming update will improve the program's scrolling speed.)
Twinkle: Tapulous' Twinkle
Tapulous' Twinkle is a strong competitor to Twiterrific, but its colorful interface (bright yellow, blue, and gray word balloons on a dark starscape background) is distracting and harder to read than Twitterrific's.
Twinkle's best trait is its location awareness. When you post to Twinkle, other Twinkle users can see what city you're tweeting from. And a tap on the Nearby button lets you see tweets from Twinkle users near you, which is pretty cool. However, I wish I could opt to view tweets only from nearby users I follow, and there's no way to block nearby users whose tweets you might find distasteful. (Tapulous says such a method will be available in a forthcoming update.) Because Twinkle's location-savvy functionality works via a proxy server run by Tapulous, only Twinkle users can appear in the Nearby list, and only other Twinkle users can see what city you're tweeting from.
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