BlackBerry users know that stellar Twitter clients have been hard to come by, so whenever a major new release hits the streets, it's something that makes the BlackBerry-carrying Twitter addicts out there -- and there are many of them, rest assured -- sit up and take notice. The latest app is called TweetGenius, and if you've been keeping an eye on our Twitter accounts, you'd know that we've been pretty excited about this app since we first had the opportunity to check it out over a month ago. In that short period of time, it's gone through one hell of a metamorphosis, and it looks like the bar is being raised for future apps -- Twitter and non-Twitter alike -- on the BlackBerry front. Read on for a closer look at what makes this app tick -- and more importantly, to find out whether it'll be replacing your current Twitter client.
Design and Functionality
From the instant you click the TweetGenius icon on your homescreen, it's very apparent that this particular app was created with a heavy emphasis on eye candy. Whereas other third-party app UIs for BlackBerry have frequently been categorized as clunky and not well thought out, TweetGenius is sleek and attractive. The launch screen features three main buttons -- Friends Timeline, Replies, and Direct Messages -- set in front of a cartoon-style city skyline. It's super clean and looks amazing on the Bold's 480 x 320 screen.
Also present on the main screen is the notification bar along the bottom, which previews the latest message in any of the aforementioned buttons along with a shrunken-down avatar. As you scroll through these main buttons, the preview on the bottom changes along with it. There are also unread counts that appear in speech bubble-esque graphics above each button when you've got unread updates, so you never have to guess if you're behind with your tweeps.
Moving from the home screen into one of TweetGenius' other views, a super smooth sliding transition brings you out of the launchpad into whichever sub-menu you choose. A blue highlight signifies where you're at in the timeline, and you can get around using the standard BlackBerry keyboard shortcuts -- T for top, Space for page down, and so on.
The timelines collectively use the same layout, which consists of the user's avatar in a rounded rectangle on the left side, the person's name in bold, and then the content of the tweet, all set over a slight gradient that really works visually. Currently, it's set to display two lines of text in the timeline view, which is usually enough room on a larger-screened device like the Bold or Curve 8900, however, it requires clicking into a tweet on older hardware like the original Curve.
Clicking on a tweet triggers a side scroll that creates the effect of sliding in a card from the left to the right. Along the top you've got the avatar with rounded corners, display name, and username, all on top of the familiar blue gradient. Underneath, the full text of the tweet is available, along with the date and time it was sent and information about which client was used -- the same stuff you're used to seeing from your desktop. Also handy is the integrated Twitpic preview function, which loads the photo directly within the app without having to launch your browser.
The slide transitions don't stop there, though -- clicking on the username will shimmy you into a profile view for that particular user. It slides down from the top, and actually loads the color scheme that a particular user has set from his or her individual Twitter page. It displays your bio information, location (if you've supplied it), number of followers, and a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff that you wouldn't necessarily expect to see on a mobile client. Obviously, you can follow people and favorite tweets from directly within the app, as well as view other users you don't currently follow by using the "Go to user" option.
The app's got some cool tricks up its sleeve for tweet composition, too. Tapping the "m" key (for "message," we assume) brings up another speech bubble and dims the rest of the screen. You can bring up the dialog from anywhere in the app -- another cool visual cue that adds to the usability. Also, if you've got a BlackBerry that supports GPS use in 3rd party apps (note: not like the Verizon Curve 8330), you can choose to "Insert My Location" which will make a short URL to a Google Maps search with the coordinates of your location. It's a cool idea, and not something that we've ever seen in another mobile client for BlackBerry (we're also hearing that there will be even more GPS integration in future releases, though we're not sure exactly where they plan to take it). Finally, when you're done composing your tweet, there's an oddly familiar "poof" transition -- icing on the cake.
Twitter's latest design tweaks to its full desktop site put a heavy emphasis to search, and we're glad that the functionality makes the jump to TweetGenius as well. As we've seen elsewhere, there are plenty of gee-whiz visuals involved here: hitting the "s" key brings up a magnifying glass graphic over another semi-transparent background. Other than that, search works exactly how you'd expect it to, loading the latest tweets with your search parameter.
TweetGenius also takes on a different approach to keeping track of users through the appropriately-named "Track" feature. With any user selected, you can choose to "Track this user," which adds them to a separate popup that you can use to watch particular users or even searches. Hitting Alt+Space toggles the track menu, and it puts your favorite users at the touch of a button. It's a nice way to sort out your more important follows, and it will also allow you to save your searches. Track is currently being called an "experimental feature" and we're told it'll eventually be expanded to support things like groups and background updating of searches. Like the tweet bubble, Track can be triggered from anywhere in the app, and it reinforces the "do anything from anywhere" idea behind the app's design.
We're confident that TweetGenius has the potential to become the Twitter app for all BlackBerry users. The comprehensive feature set gives an incredibly strong foundation to a seriously well-designed app. The complete user experience is very tight, and the sweeping transitions, gradients, and visual cues give it a really polished feel. It's a pleasure to use out of the gate, and we're hopeful that it's just going to get better with time. The developers say they want to be receptive to user feedback -- always a promising sign with software -- and they want as much feedback as possible to make it even more full-featured. A single device license (with free upgrades through to version 2.0) runs $4.99, and we're told it's transferable in case you get a replacement or upgrade to a new device. It's a small price to pay for a whole lot of functionality -- especially if you're checking your Twitter accounts as much as we do.It's available now for Bold and Curve 8900 users, with Storm, Curve 83xx, and 88xx support coming in the next week or so.