Initial thoughts on Tweetdeck for Android.

TweetdeckRather than write a full review and duplicate the good work of others elsewhere I wanted to share a few thoughts and opinions and how I arrived at them.

The journey

I've always been a geek and have spent (too) many an hour just tinkering and tweaking to get something just the way I want it - whether it be a self build PC, website or phone. In fact I spent a long time building custom Windows Mobile 6.5 roms for my old HTC Touch Dual before the OS was released.

When my Touch Dual died (probably as a result of repeatedly re-flashing too many roms) I was still in contract so couldn't afford another Windows Mobile device. It was disappointing at the time but ultimately did me a big favour. I ended up with a Nokia XM5800 after being surprisingly impressed by the one my wife (@SallyWalker) had bought. Okay, Symbian is far from the best mobile OS but the ability to side load apps from any source was a blessing.

Without a doubt, the best application I have ever used on Symbian is the Twitter client Gravity written by @janole. The interface and design was a masterclass in what Symbian could achieve and should have become a template for how apps look on the platform. I strongly believe that Symbian themselves should really have looked at this and redesigned the OS itself.

Gravity was the perfect Twitter experience for me; it just felt "right". Using accounts from multiple services, GPS, image sharing and URL shortener integration were all there and the app was, quite honestly, way ahead of the competition and really set the standard for how Twitter clients should be, and not just on the Symbian platform.

Gravity was so good that it was the single reason I was hesitant to ditch my Nokia and move to Android. Ever since I have been searching for that perfect Twitter experience on Android but never found it - that could now be about to change.

A new hope

For some reason I can't fathom I've never been a fan of desktop Twitter apps, don't ask me why but I've just never gotten on with them and always preferred to use the web site. I installed the Tweetdeck desktop application but very soon found myself removing it.

Twitter on a phone is different and, while I have still been using the mobile website from time to time, I believe a client is the way to go to get the best from the service. However, being disappointed with the alternatives I stuck with the default HTC application Peep - it was simple and did the basics reasonably well so why waste space installing something else. Just as with desktop clients the rest didn't feel right; perhaps I had just been spoilt by Gravity.

I was intrigued when I heard that Tweetdeck would work in a similar way to Gravity: multiple accounts, swiping from side to side to switch between different columns etc. and I am glad to say that I was not disappointed. Tweetdeck feels so much like Gravity to use that it is almost a homecoming.

The current build may still be a beta with a few bugs and an incomplete feature set but I can honestly not now imagine myself using anything else on an Android device. Not a statement I make lightly.

As well as the overall experience fitting the way I see a mobile Twitter client working there are a number of features which instantly resonated:

  • performing a search and saving the results as a new column so you can keep an eye on a topic in real time
  • the Buzz notifications (I don't have my Facebook account added but it's the same thing) in the 'Me' timeline indicating, for example, if someone liked your post
  • choosing either exact coordinates or a Foursquare "Place" when geotagging
  • the little indications when you have unread items: the dots indicating pages and the yellow scroll bar at the side - the longer the bar the more unread items

The beta support forums are busy already and a lot of the requests mirror things I would personally like to see such as improved support for lists (I may even start using them), the ability to separate different services out to different columns and to show which tweets are geotagged directly in the timeline. Don't get me wrong, the combined Home column works really well with the different colours for the different services you are using but it would nice to have the choice to split them into their own streams.

The single biggest problem with Tweetdeck is the inability to change the refresh times. Currently, the application update your stream every few seconds which, on a device that has known battery life issues, is not a good call and effectively prohibits you from leaving it running in the background. Fortunately, this has already been acknowledged on the support forums so I envisage there being more options in the next build(s).

The future

As long as the key issues get resolved before Tweedeck hits version 1.0 the applications is, in my opinion, streets ahead of any other Twitter client for Android and can only get better.

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