Twitter is in the process of providing official Twitter applications for all of the major mobile platforms, and it officially released the Twitter Android App today. The application is currently in the Android Market, but unfortunately is only available for phones running Android 2.1 or higher. The Twitter iPhone app will be a rebranded version of Tweetie, which Twitter aquired in early April. Twitter partnered with RIM to develop the official Twitter app for Blackberry, which is also available.
When you first start the Twitter Android app, you are presented options to synchronize who you are following in Twitter with your Android Contacts. You can specify whether to synchronize all the Twitter IDs that you are following, only those that are already in your Contacts, or not synchronize. After you configure the synchronization settings, you see the application home screen.
The Twitter branding really stands out throughout the application, which uses the light blue color that you see on the Twitter web site along with the Twitter logo. On the home screen you see options for Tweets, Lists, Mentions, Retweets, Direct Messages, and My Profile. At the bottom of the screen you see the familiar “tweetie” bird, flying through the air and surrounded by trending topics that automatically appear. If you prefer, you can turn the animation off in the app settings. Tap the bird to display all of the current trending topics, in addition you can see the trending topics for the last day and week.
I found some interesting features in the app that I don’t believe I have seen in other Twitter clients. For example, the Retweets section has three tabs: By you, By others, and Retweeted. The By you tab displays the tweets that you have retweeted, By others displays the tweets the people you are following retweeted, and the Retweeted tab displays your tweets that other people have retweeted. It appears that retweets do not appear in the Tweets section, which displays your Twitter timeline of tweets posted by the people you follow.
Image courtesy of Twitter
Most users will spend the majority of their time in the Tweets section, which is where you see all the tweets of the people you follow and where you compose your own tweets. The Tweets section has a Maps function that displays a map of tweets, however for me it displays a few tweets in New York and I can’t figure out how to view other tweets on the map. At the top of the section, under the Twitter logo, is a drop down to switch between tweets, mentions, and favorites.
Composing a tweet is straightforward, you tap the compose icon at the top of the Tweets section to open a message box to enter a tweet. At the top of the compose section are buttons for uploading a picture, taking a picture, and selecting one of your followers to insert a mention (@ reply) in the tweet. Press the menu button for options to insert a URL or compose a direct message. Picture uploads and URL shortening appear in the background and worked quickly in my tests. Unfortunately, URL shortening requires you to enter “http://” in the URL or it does not work. A thumbnail version of the pictures you and others share in Twitter appears right in the Tweets section, unlike other apps that only display the picture URL.
The Search features in the Twitter app utilize the location capabilities of Twitter and Android. You can tap a button to search for all tweets near your location, or you can enter a search term and have only the tweets near your location with that term display. The most recent search terms are saved in the Search section so that they can be re-used. The Profile section displays all of your tweets, displays your profile, which you can edit, and displays all the other items associated with your ID such as who you are following and your lists.
The program settings are straight forward, you can control whether to sync Twitter data and how often, configure notification settings, turn the background animation on or off, and specify what photo-upload and URL-shortening services to use. The app has two photo-uploading services, TwitPic and yfrog, and two URL-shortening services, bit.ly and TinyURL.
Overall, I am impressed with the Twitter app and plan to start using it as the main Twitter client on my Nexus One. It appears to have more features than the third party Twitter apps and also seems to be faster.