Tweetbot: The good, the bad and the ugly

The hot new iPhone app on the Interwebs these days is Tweetbot, which is billed as "A Twitter client with personality".

Basically, it's a Twitter app. That's underselling it, because it's a very good Twitter app, but it's still fundamentally another way to access Twitter on your iPhone or iPod Touch. And heaven knows that the world has been lacking in Twitter apps, eh?

The good:

It's got a very slick interface with features that, quite frankly, I'd love to see stolen by other Twitter apps that I prefer to use, particularly the little "drawer" of commands that opens up underneath a tweet when you tap on it (see image) to reply, retweet, or bring up other options. It's one of those small things that as soon as you see it, you wonder why no one else has ever thought of it before. The swipe-left/swipe-right features on tweets to bring up conversations and related tweets is also quite nice.

The usability of Tweetbot is its big advantage over many other Twitter apps that I've tried. I won't go into details on all of Tweetbot's little innovations, but suffice to say, this app packs a lot of power into a (generally) easy-to-use interface (with one glaring exception that we'll get to below.)

Not to mention Tweetbot's blue steel color theme looks good. I know, that's a really superficial statement. But go on Twitter and see how people actually judge their Twitter apps. Great features don't matter if people are bugged by your background color. Seriously. And Tweetbot is definitely one of the nicest looking apps I've ever used.

Finally, it's definitely better than Twitter for iPhone.

The bad:

The lack of landscape composing mode is mind-boggling for an app that otherwise improved the user interface. The company notes that landscape composing mode is coming in a future update, but that's still a gigantic omission, even more than push updates (which can be worked around easily enough using Boxcar). Trying to type on the iPhone's keyboard in a vertical mode is really awkward.

It's a Twitter app. "And that's bad ... why?" you're saying. It's bad because it's $1.99 (on sale, no less) in the app store, and it only does Twitter. My go-to Twitter app on my iPhone is HootSuite, which is a power user app that supports Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare and LinkedIn. And it's been free in the App Store now for more than a year. That's the competition for Tweetbot: free apps that do more than Twitter, even if they lack some of the fun new features of a $1.99 Twitter app.

Right now, Tweetbot has a really positive buzz about it, so its developers should pocket some nice coin in app sales. But whether it can maintain that beyond an initial honeymoon period remains to be seen. Particularly since the next new hot Twitter app, the totally rebuilt TweetDeck for iPhone, will be out in a week or two. It will also introduce some new concepts to the whole social networking sphere, such as combined columns. And it will be free. TweetBot's honeymoon could be short-lived.

The ugly: The Tweetbot icon. Seriously now.

The bottom line: Well, I paid $1.99 for this, so I'm kind of feeling obligated to use it, at least sometimes. But the only way it's ever going to go on the home page of my iPhone is if it adds Facebook support, because I use Twitter and Facebook side by side, and like to update both statuses at the same time through the same app. As a stand-alone Twitter app, it's definitely among the very best I've used. But HootSuite is still my preferred Twitter client ... at least until I can try the new TweetDeck for iPhone.

JUNE 12 UPDATE: TweetBot has now had two bug-fix/feature-add updates, and landscape composing mode is now part of the app, which is great. And I still do use TweetBot from time to time and enjoy it very much. It is the best Twitter app out there if all you're interested in is Twitter.

SEPTEMBER 16 UPDATE: TweetBot just keeps getting better and better. It now has built-in push notifications and a mute feature, amongst other developments. It's now my go-to Twitter app on my iPhone and highly recommended.


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