You know what's awesome? Cookie dough ice cream. But when it comes to the smartphone market, the 18-month-old, steadily-growing Android platform is equally wondrous. Sure, Google may have a tiny bit of catching up to do when compared with Apple's market share, but at least Android users are already spoiled with a handful of good Twitter apps. Better yet, Twitter has now thrown in its official app to spice up the competition, so we thought it'd be interesting to put it head-to-head against the third-party clients. Read on to find out if we have a winner.
- Deep OS integrationCan show nearby tweetsDisplays picture thumbnails in timelines
- Inconsistent retweet functionsDoesn't load timeline at launchDoesn't display conversation threads
Let's start off with a quick introduction to each of the Twitter clients that we'll be comparing, but do bear with us while we give the newcomer a slightly longer rundown:
Twitter for Android
Another complaint we have is the inconsistency of the retweet feature -- for some reason the retweet button's missing in the "By others" retweet timeline, mentions timeline, nearby tweets timeline or search results; the other apps have no such limitation. We're not exactly sure what the logic behind this is, but what's certain is that it's a nuisance and restricts our way of tweeting -- "retweet" was actually a format created by the Twitter community, after all. Hopefully we'll see a fix for this soon.
Leaving our retweet rant aside, there's one cool feature that we dig -- picture thumbnails in timelines. For now, only TwitPic and yfrog pictures can be previewed this way, but we won't be surprised if more supported sites are to come soon. Another nice and unique addition is the deep OS integration -- as pictured above, your contacts will be associated with their Twitter accounts by the power of green bot magic, plus you can have a glance at their latest tweets in your address book or messages app.
Round one: Viewing
|Load timeline at launch||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Remember timeline position||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|View geotagged tweets on map||Yes||No||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|View nearby tweets||Yes||No||No||No||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|View nearby tweets on map||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Enlarge profile pictures||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|View conversation threads||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Change font size||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Picture thumbnails in timelines||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No|
In the first round of this shootout, it's clear that Twidroid offers the best Twitter browsing experience, closely followed by Twicca and TweetCaster. Most of the rest fell behind with their lack of support for geotagged tweets -- to view on map or to scan for nearby tweets, leaving just the official Twitter app and Twidroid happily covering both features. On the contrary, Twitter's own client is one of the few apps that miss out on handy tools like font size picker, automatic timeline bookmarker, and conversation thread viewer.
Round two: Composing
|Insert location in tweet||Yes||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Old / new retweet options||New||Old||Both||Old||Both||Both||Both||Both|
|Reply to all mentions||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Look up user names while composing||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Upload photos / videos||Photos||Photos||Both||Both||Photos||Photos||Both||Both|
|Photo upload service options||2||1||4||4||2||2||1||5|
|Video upload service options||No||No||3||2||No||No||1||Premium|
|URL-shortening service options||2||1||3||1||Premium||2||1||3|
Again, Twidroid comes out as the clear winner in the composing category, with Twicca trailing slightly behind due to the missing options for media-upload and URL-shortening services. Seesmic could've easily won the champion title here had there not been that single red cross -- like HootSuite and Swift, it doesn't let you look up user names while composing. The official Twitter app looks about average in this round, mainly due to its inability to let us reply to all mentions with one click, plus the lack of video upload tool just didn't make sense for this newcomer.
Final round: Extras
|Monitor link click stats||No||Premium||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Create and edit lists||Yes||No||Delete only||No||No||Yes||Yes||Premium|
|Block / report||Both||Block||Block||No||Block||Both||Both||Block|
|Themes||No||No||No||No||Premium (2)||Yes (2)||No||Premium (6)|
|Android share integration||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
As you can see in this final round, most of the third-party apps here don't fare as well as the official Twitter app when it comes to list management, profile editing and widgets. On the other hand, Twitter's app could do with support for multiple accounts to catch up with this round's winner -- TweetCaster. Technically, Twidroid's equally as good as TweetCaster in this round, provided that you don't mind paying €3.39 ($4.32) for the pro version; otherwise you'd just have to bear with TweetCaster's ad banners, or pay $4.99 for the ad-free version -- it's nice to support the developers, you know? While we're here, it's also worth pointing out that HootSuite's the only client that offers tweet scheduling and link click metrics (premium), whereas Touiteur and Twicca are the only ones that let you color-tag tweets from selected people.
Twitter's first attempt with its own mobile app isn't a bad one -- it's certainly one of the prettiest choices in the market right now, but at the end of the day, for us Twidroid easily took the crown as the best Android Twitter app, with TweetCaster as the runner-up and Twicca in third place. That said, the official app is still the only candidate that offers deep integration within the OS (like the aforementioned contacts linking). If Twitter wants to play catch-up, all we ask for is for its app to remember timeline position, show conversation threads, allow replying to all mentions, and support video upload. Better still, Twitter should consider letting its users view nearby tweets on a map -- we can already do this on Tweetie 2 (soon to be the official iPhone Twitter app), so why not make this a first on Android as well? It'll be super useful for users to find out about regional events, regardless of radial distance. Until these ideas are implemented on the official app, third-party Android developers can safely stay in the Twitter game.