Back when the iPhone platform was still young and the App Store had just opened its virtual doors, one of the most remarkable apps in what seemed to be an endless stream of poorly executed ideas was a gem called Weightbot. The app is still around, and the 'bot still occupies a place of honor on my iPhone as it monitors the ups and downs of my diet.
Weightbot was the first in a series of apps from Tapbots, a development firm headlined by Mark Jardine and Paul Haddad. Each one of the succeeding apps, including Convertbot, Calcbot and Pastebot, has brought something innovative and well-designed to the market. While there were already a lot of unit conversion apps on the market by the time Convertbot hit the scene, Tapbots added an amazing interface with a rotating unit selector and conversion on the fly. Like Weightbot, the app is one of the few that still remains from the early days of the App Store.
So what could the Tapbots team bring their design savvy to next? We found out a few months ago when they announced Tweetbot (US$1.99 introductory price, $2.99 later). Now for many of us, the thought of yet another Twitter client was enough to cause extreme nausea. However, knowing the Tapbots folks, we were willing to take a closer look at this new app to see how it stands against the flock of Twitter apps already in the App Store. Take a gander at our first look at Tweetbot starting on the next page.
Tweetbot uses the "tweeting bot" robotic bird logo that Tapbots has used on its website to link to its Twitter feed. That makes the icon instantly recognizable on your iPhone screen. Once the app is opened, adding accounts is simple -- that's actually true of most Twitter apps, of course.
Once the stream of tweets begins to appear, the UI fun begins. Tapping on any specific tweet displays a small button bar with five actions: Reply (which displays Reply / Reply to All buttons if more than one Twitter handle is involved); Retweet (includes Retweet to Followers and Quote Tweet buttons); Favorite, a multi-action button that posts a link to a tweet, copies the tweet, emails it or translates it; and a Detail button that provides information about the specific Twitter user who posted the tweet.
The translation button is fun and useful -- useful in that you can now read those tweets that come across in German, Japanese, French or a ton of other languages, fun in that the translations can be pretty funny (see gallery for an example).
At the bottom of the Tweetbot display are five more buttons. The first displays the Twitter timeline for the specific Twitter account you're monitoring, the second shows mentions of your Twitter handle, and the third displays direct messages to your account. In a clever UI element, Tweetbot highlights the bottom of each button in bright blue if new tweets have arrived and are unread. The fourth button displays lists that you follow, and the final button provides searching capabilities. Searches can be saved for future use, and trending Twitter topics are displayed on the search screen as well.
In the upper right corner of the Tweetbot screen is a button that brings up a New Tweet screen and the keyboard. The app is designed for use in portrait mode, and as such, you can't turn the device into landscape mode for a wider keyboard. I don't find that to be an issue, since I rarely write tweets with more than one finger unless I'm using my Mac or iPad. Location can be added to your tweets, and tapping on the location pointer in the tweet edit field displays a large red Remove Location button, a list of local points of interest, and a list of general locations. This works well; I can choose between my exact latitude and longitude coordinates, a local business, or just the generic "Highlands Ranch, CO" as my location.
The detail display for tweets provides a lot of information, including the app from which the tweet was sent, the location (if provided) in a small map thumbnail, and related tweets or retweets of each tweet. If the tweet is part of a conversation, tapping on the Conversation button displays the timeline of all of the tweets.
In the general timeline, there's also a nice "Tapbots Blue" status line that appears telling you how many new tweets have arrived. Like most Twitter clients for iOS, pulling down the top of the timeline refreshes the list of tweets.
Am I going to keep Tweetbot on my iPhone? Heck, yeah. I like the way it works and looks, and although it doesn't really do anything more than most other Twitter clients -- including Twitter for iPhone -- it just has the uncluttered and usable interface that is common to all of those other great Tapbots apps.