By: Hillel Fuld
One of the obvious advantages of the growing mobile app ecosystem is that if you don’t like a specific app, there is almost always a better alternative. If you don’t like making free calls on Skype, use Viber. If you don’t like the way Instagram applies filters to your photos, use PicPlz or Burstn. If you don’t like the way one flashlight app works, there are hundreds of others to choose from. I think you get the point.
Having said that, one of the most popular categories for mobile apps, especially on the iPhone is Twitter apps. There are tens of them, if not more. Apps like the official Twitter app, Tweetdeck, Echofon, Twitteriffic, and many many more. However, to this day, I have not managed to find one app that meets all my needs and expectations from a Twitter app on the iOS platform. There are some that come awfully close like Echofon Pro or Osfoora, but each has its issues, and there is no reason an iPhone developer should not release the perfect iPhone Twitter app. I am convinced that such an app would explode in popularity in no time.
By the way, this post started as a tweet, in which I asked my followers for recommendations on a solid Twitter iPhone app. That was following an upgrade of Echofon Pro, which it turns out, was full of bugs. After getting several recommendations, my friend, Branko Rihtman suggested I write a post about all the features I would expect to see in the perfect Twitter app. So here it is.
The following are 18 very specific features, which can serve as an outline for the perfect iPhone Twitter app. Of course, it is important to remember, that these are advanced features that should be included in an app in addition to the basic requirements of any mobile app. Those include an intuitive UI, high performance and speed, stability, and in this case, all the basic Twitter functionality.
1: Reply to Multiple Tweets: This should not be confused with a Reply All. I want my Twitter app to allow me to reply to a few people with one answer. When would I use this? Imagine your birthday and you are getting tweets from many people that all say the same thing: “Happy birthday”. Instead of replying to each one with a “thank you”, you can select a few tweets and reply to all at once. Echofon is the only app I have found that does this. All Twitter apps should.
2: One click access to lists: Twitter lists are a very important tool that make the whole Twitter experience much more manageable. A mobile Twitter app should enable you to access your lists with one click. That means the ability to add a list as one of the main items in the app’s menu. Out of the apps that I have tried, the only one that does this well is Tweetings. Tweetlist does a good job at providing quick access to your lists as well.
3: Numbers on Columns: When I first asked for recommendations of a solid Twitter app, most people recommended Twitter for iPhone. I had tried it before, but since so many people liked it, I had to give it another try. That lasted ten seconds. The first thing I noticed is the lack of numbers on each column. When I wake up in the morning and check my Twitter app, I want to know how many replies I missed. It is less relevant for tweets since those will probably be in the hundreds if not thousands, but I would like to know about missed replies and DMs. The official Twitter app only shows you that you have missed tweets, but not how many. This to me, is a deal breaker.
4: View Mentions when in a List: I have seen many apps that provide a great experience when reading your Twitter list. Osfoora is one example. The problem is that when you are in a list, you cannot see your replies, so you don’t know if you missed any. Of course, you can always go back to the main timeline, but just like all the points in this post, the goal is to make the experience as easy as possible. Point number 2 would prevent this. If the app enabled you to place a list as part of the main menu alongside replies, then you would be able to read your list, and see as soon as a new reply comes in.
5: Pull to Refresh: This is one of the many intuitive gestures iPhone users have grown accustomed to. However, while many iPhone Twitter apps have this ability, some have yet to adopt it. Echofon for example has not implemented this feature and that is unfortunate. There is no question that every iPhone Twitter app should have pull to refresh so users can stay updated in real time by simply pulling down the timeline.
6: Button Placements: When putting together this list, I turned to my Twitter followers for requests and this is one of the many I got. Turns out Twitter on Android has several buttons that are too close to each other, which leads to users pressing the wrong thing. This is also the case on Echofon with the Refresh button appearing in the upper right corner right next to Menu. It is small and hard to press, something I was sure Echofon would have fixed by now. This is true for almost all mobile apps, button size and placement is crucial.
7: Complete control over columns: There is no reason I should be forced to have Search as one of my columns when I use lists so much more often. An iPhone Twitter app should allow you to fully customize which columns appear in the main menu.
8: Sync between platforms: I am no developer, so I cannot say if this is even possible, but I would like for my Twitter app to be available on Mac, PC, iPhone, Android, and sync between each platform. What I mean is that if I read a tweet on my iPhone, I don’t want it showing up as Unread on my Mac. I do not know if such a thing exists, nor do I know if it is possible, but we are talking about the perfect app, right?
9: Auto Complete: One of the many things I love about Tweetdeck on Mac and PC is that it completes the names of people I am writing to. Many apps let you find people’s user names, I am not talking about that. I want my iPhone Twitter app to complete the name as I write it. Echofon does this, but it works very slowly and I do not know of another app that does this well.
10: Follower Count on Tweets: Yet another awesome Tweetdeck feature, the ability to see how many followers a person has directly under their tweet. Why is this important? Not because follower numbers matter, but because this is a solid way of identifying spammers. If a person follows 10k people and has one follower, that is not the type of person I am going to waste my time replying to. No Twitter iPhone app that I know of has this functionality.
11: Multiple Accounts: This is a no brainer, yet some Twitter apps still do not allow you to configure more than one account.
12: Scheduled Tweets: I am a big fan of authenticity on Twitter and I am very against automating your tweets. Having said that, there is no reason people in other time zones should not benefit from your tweets, so I use the Scheduled Tweets feature in Tweetdeck almost daily. I do not know of a Twitter iPhone that supports this and I don’t see any reason why.
13: Old and New RTs: A sore topic. Twitter recently added a native retweet option, but many people, myself included really don’t like it. The main reason being that native retweets do not show up in your replies so the person you are retweeting may never know. It is therefore important that a Twitter app have both options. The official Twitter app has the “quote” option, which is essentially the same as the old retweet, but I am not sure why they had to change it t a quote format.
14: Who RTed me? Since many people do use the new retweet as it saves the room of the extra characters, it is important that a Twitter app show you who retweeted you. This is something I have not seen implemented well in any Twitter app.
15: Google Search: This was another suggestion I got from a Twitter follower. She explained that the ability to search Google for a person’s name from within a Twitter app is something she would find to be very useful. I don’t disagree, it could be interesting.
16: Live links in timeline: This is another one of those points that would help you get things done faster. Yes, it is not the end of the world if you have to click on the tweet first, then click the link, but there is no reason links should not be clickable in the timeline itself. This is available in many apps including Echofon and Tweetings, but all Twitter apps should offer this.
17: Tweet in Background for increased speed: This one drives me nuts. In many apps including Osfoora, when I send a tweet, I have to watch the screen while the app communicates with Twitter and finally sends the tweet. Some apps do that in the background, so I can continue on to the next thing. Tweetdeck for iPhone asks you if you want it to send the tweet in the background. I see no reason that all apps, by default, should not do this in the background and let you move on as soon as you press Send.
18: Push Notifications: I use Boxcar for all my notifications, but there is no reason every Twitter app should not have its own notification system.
As you are probably thinking, this post is long, so I am going to go ahead and make an offer. The developer who creates the app that meets all the above requirements has my word that I will promote it to the best of my ability to everyone I know. That should get you at least two downloads plus mine (a good start), so what are you waiting for? Who is going to step up and create the perfect iPhone Twitter app?
Did I forget any features or do you have thoughts on the Twitter app industry? Please let me know in the comments or on Twitter.