Twitter clients for the iPhone are pretty much a dime a dozen, but unfortunately, the same can't be said for the BlackBerry platform. Things are looking up for the Waterloo faithful, though, with a number of clients on the horizon -- and one of the best we've seen thus far is SocialScope from the guys at Ubiquitous Systems. The app has been around in the form of an invite-only alpha for a few months now, and with more recent releases the guns are coming out and it's really starting to develop into a fairly advanced app. Read on for more impressions and an exclusive hands-on with the latest build -- and oh, yeah, we've got loads of invites for you certifiable addicts as well!
The guys at SocialScope have taken a full featured desktop program and translated it to work on a mobile device. We think you'd be hard pressed to find a feature that isn't built in, and if you did, it's probably only a matter of time before it shows up in another release. SocialScope is actually not only a Twitter app, but a Facebook application as well; it aggregates all your tweets and does all the things you'd expect a Twitter client to do, but it also aggregates your friends' Facebook statuses and photo upload notifications.
Design and functionality
As we mentioned earlier, this app is almost two apps in one. It not only gets your tweets, but also checks in with Facebook to see what your friends are up to over there. The app design is fairly straightforward, and in the latest release -- 0.9.5.2 -- a refined version of the existing UI is being introduced. While we wouldn't really call the earlier design painful, the new color scheme and tab design is a welcomed addition. We were told that a new designer has been brought in who is in the process of overhauling the whole app from the ground up, but that won't be ready until 0.9.6.
SocialScope 0.9.3.6 (left) versus SocialScope 0.9.5.2 (right)
Perhaps some of the biggest changes in this release come in the form of tabs and what they can do. Popular desktop clients such as TweetDeck offer the option to create tabs for groups of people or other things you're interested in. SocialScope has translated this onto the BlackBerry, and they've really nailed it. It's possible to add a tab for a new group, search results, or your own recent updates. It's super simple -- and things like search tabs update at the same interval as everything else, so you're never behind.
Also new in this release is an enhanced profile view. Whereas previously you had to visit the actual mobile site to view information about a particular user, now you can click the "View Profile" menu item and get all the same profile info that you're used to seeing on the actual Twitter site. You can also do things like view a users followers and who he or she is following, and then follow those people directly from within the app itself. The same can be done for people you aren't already following by choosing the option to "Go To Twitter User," which will quickly let you get any user's stats and recent tweets without ever having to open a browser window.
Adding a groups tab
Adding a search tab
Adding a groups tab
Managing multiple Twitter accounts
This release packs in even more awesome features as well. Devices with BlackBerry OS 4.6 and later have the option to integrate "@" replies and direct messages directly with their inbox. Built-in image resizing has also made its way to the "Media" app so that you can cut down on TwitPic upload times. Tabs now save between logouts, and you can choose to "refresh on launch" as an option. For Facebook users, commenting on statuses is built-in directly to the app, so no more having to deal with Facebook's clunky WAP site.
On the downside, we have to point out that some users have reported a fairly substantial memory leak in the app, although this has reportedly been fixed in more recent builds. While we haven't experienced any obvious leaks ourselves, it's been acknowledged by the developers who are quick to point out that the app is still in alpha. Additionally, we were pleasantly surprised to see that there wasn't any major toll on battery life on the Verizon-branded Curve 8330 that we used for testing, even with heavy use and push / automatic updating enabled. That said, we didn't do any real scientific studies, and this was only one model of device; your mileage may vary.
While we still have a few qualms with SocalScope at this point, we have to remember that it hasn't even left alpha status. Once it sheds the qualifier and hits the magic 1.0 mark, we expect to be one of the most full-featured, solid applications for the BlackBerry platform. Ubiquitous has done its best to make as many features as possible available to as many users as possible, and they support OSs as early as 4.2.1. They've reiterated over and over that "if you think this is going to only be a Twitter and Facebook application, you are sadly mistaken." Also, the update is going to be rolled out to users over the next few weeks, so sit tight until you get the notification of availability -- we promise, it's worth the wait.
We've also heard that the app is already being adapted for multiple other platforms (yes, that was platforms plural), and that Ubiquitous is actively seeking new opportunities, so if you're not the BlackBerry type, sit tight -- this action might just end up on your device of choice. For the rest of you, though, they've supplied us with 500 invites, so just hit this link and you should get an invite shortly (sit tight -- it might take 'em a bit to process them all). And naturally, make sure @engadgetmobile is your very first Twitter follow, eh?
Update: That was fast. Looks like we're already out of invites for the time being, but stay tuned, as we're sure SocialScope will be accepting more new users as soon as they can take them!