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Type "Twitter" in the App Store search bar and you will find page after page of apps, apps with integration, apps that convert voice to tweets, apps for image posting and searching, apps that only update your status and don't show you anything else at all, apps for this and apps for that. However, when you break it down, Twitter app users typically fall into one of two categories: users of the official Twitter app and users of popular third party solution, TweetDeck. Which one is the right one for you? Well, we guess that really depends.
Humble beginnings are the story of this official app. Once upon a time, developer atebits put out what was far and away the best looking third-party Twitter app, Tweetie, complete with desktop version. What was so beautiful about Tweetie was that it looked like something Apple itself might have come up with if Apple had made Twitter apps.
Sleek, polished, Tweetie was too tempting, and when Twitter's growth exploded, they bought atebits and turned the third-party legit. Some developers cried foul (fowl?), worrying that Twitter's embrace of an official app would render them obsolete.
Side by Side User Tweet and Portrait Comparison
Not quite. While Twitter's official app is incredibly dominating in the mobile sphere, there are still new apps every day that come along (think Flipboard) that harness Twitter and use it for entirely novel reading experiences. Showing up in iPad and iPhone flavors (with no plans for developing a desktop version -- after all, they argue, there's the web), Twitter is about as slick and as polished an app as you're likely to see.
White Space Cropped To Show Tools
With your accounts to the left in a tool bar that includes your timeline, mentions of you, lists you've created, direct messages, and search, Twitter for iPad puts everything at your fingertips there on the page. In fact, the app was so well-designed that the web version mimics its wide and thin column style to put as much information at your disposal as is aesthetically pleasing to do so. Tap on a link and the web page referenced slides out from the right. Slide your finger across the screen to the right to push this "drawer" effect back.
Drawers slide out
On the iPhone, this sliding effect moves the whole screen, but it's smooth and quick with navigation buttons up top and various option controls down below. Twitter for iPhone also pioneered the now ubiquitous "Pull down to refresh" feature used everywhere (including our own beloved iPhone app).
One of the features we grew to love with our Twitter for the iPhone was the use of the Instapaper Mobilizer. This rendered links posted on Twitter into their Instapaper equivalent, stripped of ads and everything else, making pages load super fast. While the iPad version doesn't include that as a possibility, the large screen and speedy processor does make page rendering fast enough that it's not terribly inconvenient. Plus, on every page that opens in Twitter there are buttons at the bottom and at the top. Top butons give you Twitter specific commands such as translate, email a tweet, etc., while the bottom button gives you more external options including sending the article to your Instapaper account or opening the link in Safari.
Instapaper Mobilized and Sending
Plus, by not using the Instapaper mobilizer, YouTube videos appear and play, links, in all their glory, show up, and Twitter just continues to look beautiful. Were we to make one minor change, we'd rather go back to seeing just posted photos and not the entirety of the Twitpic (or other) page. But that's a tiny quibble.
TweetDeck for iPad has the distinct honor of being one of the very few apps that is actually more feature rich in the iPhone version than in the iPad. The most surprising missing feature in TweetDeck for iPad is Facebook integration. While the iPhone version has had this for just about forever, it is nowhere to be found on the iPad. This is something of a puzzler, as we just said, because most iPad apps tend to take advantage of the power, speed, and bigger screen on the iPad to deliver far more than the iPhone allows. Yet users have been complaining of the lack for quite some time now with no resolution in sight.
Not That There Weren't Problems
Another peculiarity of TweetDeck for iPad was how user profiles were only available in the portrait orientation. Turn your iPad to landscape and no matter what you do, user profiles are unobtainable. Even the button for searching profiles grays out and is unusable. The iPhone version, since it only allows reading in portrait orientation, of course has no such issues. Tap on a tweet and a dedicated page opens with snippets of information about the user. Tap the top bar and you are taken to another screen that allows you to see all sorts of information as well as reply, DM, or block the user.
Where's My User Info?
What is the slickest part of TweetDeck is its column feature. On the iPhone, you pop out of one of your various columns and slide all of them across the screen to access another column. However, when doing this, the columns are not interactive. On the iPad, you slide columns side to side to move between certain pre-defined ones and ones you can create, and you can scroll each column up and down its specific timeline. Supposedly you should be able to sync these columns across devices if you have a TweetDeck account, though we were unable to get this to work.
Sliding Between Columns
Another nice feature offered by TweetDeck but not by Twitter was the ability to send messages simultaneously from multiple accounts. While the official Twitter app does allow for multiple accounts, as does nearly every app out there, power users and those in charge of corporate accounts as well as business related and personal ones, will find that TweetDeck offers a much easier way to share across accounts. One tap to start a message, another tap or two to add accounts, then type away, while in Twitter, you must write the message, tap and hold to get Select All, then copy, then open the other accounts one at a time, tap and paste in the New Tweet box.
For drafts of tweets, TweetDeck will save them, but only the most recent tweet, while Twitter allows you stash multiple drafts away for later use. A nice theoretical feature offered by the TweetDeck for iPhone version is a small toolbar right above your keyboard including a button to immediately switch into landscape mode if you're something of a chubby-fingered typist. Switching back to portrait, however, made this toolbar disappear, leaving a blank white bar on our screen. We hope that's something TweetDeck is aware of and is working out in a bug fix update. Also, should you switch apps in the middle of writing a tweet (in either version), expect it to be gone when you get back, while Twitter does manage to retain your compose screen.
White Space Where a Toolbar Was
TweetDeck did crash more often than Twitter's official app did -- which was never -- and most often when we tried to manipulate the screen while it was loading all our tweets. However, it does come in more flavors than official Twitter including the iPhone, iPad, a new Chrome web app, and an Adobe Air version (as well as Android).
TweetDeck wins the customizability battle easily and columns (if they work) are a great idea. Syncing will be awesome when fixed. Great app.
Twitter is beautiful, easy to use, has nice integration with Instapaper for caching things for later, and offers the best stability of both.
Someone create a mashup of these two that brings the best of both together. Until that day we'll award the prize to Twitter, just barely.