Twittering on an iPad

As with most other app categories, accessing Twitter from an iPad has been playing catch-up. The big missing player before this week has been Twitter itself, who whilst they had been providing a well regarded and popular iPhone application, and had been giving hints at what we might expect from the iPad, hadn’t as yet put anything forward.

When we first got our iPad I had been using the venerable Twitteriffic, which much as they had with the iPhone made it to market early providing a very nice looking and slick advert supported experience. I’d certainly recommend Twitteriffic if you’ve got fairly straightforward requirements for your tweeting, but for my purposes it lacks a couple of important features, in particular the ability to manage lists.

As a result I started to look around for an alternative. I found that in the form of Osfoora and it’s iPad version (currently withdrawn from the app store) which provided an impressive iPad experience giving the full gamut of Twitter features in a nice interface. Being a later arrival they’ve obviously drawn inspiration from the many existing clients, taking the best features of each. However the big problem is the robustness of the application, a good example of this being what happened a week or so ago when the Twitter API on which all third-party clients rely started periodically returning nulls in it’s datastream. Whilst longer established clients such as Twitteriffic and Twitter for iPhone didn’t have a problem Osfoora just crashed totally once it encountered one of these nulls and would then crash on opening. A reinstall would solve the problem up to the point it encountered another null, at which point it would fall flat on it’s face again. There are similar glitches and hiccups at other points, and it does have a propensity to crash when it encounters a problem, however until this week it has been my client of choice on the iPad and iPhone. If you need the advanced features I’d certainly recommend giving it a look – aside from the stability hiccups, the other annoyance with it is that unlike Twitteriffic and the Official Twitter app, Osfoora and Osfoora HD are sold and charged separately rather than being released as a universal application.

This week that changed when the Official Twitter app updated to a universal app providing an iPad interface, not not quite universal acclaim. Whilst some people loved it, others like Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) really didn’t.

I’ve been using it on the iPad for the past few days, and to be honest I rather like it. Swapping back to Osfoora HD with it’s more traditional buttons I miss the new style interface.

The iPad interface on the Official Twitter app makes heavy use of multitouch gestures, so the pinch gesture is used on tweets to see the conversation that the tweet is part of, or to view more detail about the person who has sent the tweet. The other interface innovation is a system of sliding panels. Starting with the basic account details on the left hand side, as you click on firstly a stream, and then individual tweets new panels slide in from the right, and can be slid back to the right as required. It’s a bit different to the other clients that tend have fixed panel areas, and does take a little getting used to, but it does seem a lot more fluid within the environment of the iPad. The panel idea even extends as far as linked content – pretty well everything that is linked to a tweet is shown in an embedded browser panel that can be slid in and out as with any other panel.

The main downside so far is that it is lacking in certain features, again proper list support. It is a bit of a surprise considering that as a universal app the iPhone version that includes the self same missing features is part of the same executable. However as those features are there but not enabled it does seem likely that they will be added in the near future.

Having said that, whilst the missing features are an annoyance, a really big advantage is that the the Official Twitter app is really stable – it hasn’t crashed once, whilst Osfoora HD which I’ve gone into a couple of times to manipulate lists managed to crash even with that small amount of usage. The other advantage of course is that it’s free.

In the medium term, I suspect I’ll continue as I have done on the iPhone with a couple of Twitter applications installed, currently the Official Twitter app and Osfoora HD – whether I can cut that to only one longer term once the missing features in the Official Twitter app are enabled remains to be seen, but for the moment the Official Twitter app is my twitter client of choice.

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