Back to Tweetbot

I’ve been trying out the official Twitter app on both my iPhone and my Mac. The iOS app has certainly improved, especially with the most recent version released last week, but after five or six days of experimentation I’m returning to the comfort and convenience of Tweetbot.

To me, the biggest improvement to Twitter1 on iOS is getting rid of that hideous baby blue band from the top of the home timeline. I don’t think of myself as especially sensitive, but whenever I tried out Twitter in the past, that color would drive me away in less than a day. Now that I think of it, it’s Twitterrific’s color choices that have kept me away from it, too, so maybe I’m more sensitive than I’d like to admit. At any rate, Twitter’s baby blue branding is still there, but only in the button icons, which are on a more palatable white background.

Twitter for iOS is distinctly better than Tweetbot in two areas: the presentation of (certain) images and the presentation of (certain) linked web pages.

For reasons I’ve never understood, Twitter clients have a tradition of displaying images inside a wide rectangle, cropping the image if necessary to make it fit. I suppose the idea was to conserve vertical space so more tweets could fit onscreen, but all it did was force me to tap on the images so I could see what I was missing. I even tapped images that were wide rectangles to expand them, because there was no way to know if they were cropped or not.

The new Twitter eliminates some of that tapping by presenting most images at or near their native aspect ratios. Tweetbot, by contrast, is still cropping severely, and the browsing experience is distinctly worse because of it.

Twitter and Tweetbot images

Twitter still does some cropping, so it’s not what I’d really like to see, but its presentation of images is something I’m going to miss.

Twitter is also better at presenting links to web pages that have implemented Twitter Cards. It’s nice to see a little description and (usually) an image from the linked page instead of just a truncated URL.

Twitter and Tweetbot links

This is something I fear Tweetbot will never catch up with. Accessing cards is, as best I can tell, not part of the Twitter REST API and not likely to become part of it.

Despite these advantages for Twitter, I’m going back to Tweetbot because the balance of features and presentation still tilts in its direction.

I mentioned above that Twitter is superior at presenting certain images. One set of images it’s not superior at is those that come from Instagram. Twitter is still apparently in a snit over losing out to Facebook on the purchase of Instagram, so it shows only the URLs of Instagram photos. Tweetbot, having no political ax to grind, displays Instagram photos directly in the timeline.

Twitter and Tweetbot Instagram

They’re still cropped, mind you, but at least they’re there. Many of the people I follow use Instagram, and it’s a pain to have to tap links and wait for Twitter’s in-app browser to open up the page.

Update 9/1/15 9:07 AM
Harshil Shah alerted me last night that I got my snits backward. It was Instagram that blocked Twitter. I’m not exactly sure how they manage that, as I thought anyone could get a direct link to an Instagram photo. That’s what I used to do in Dr. Twoot, anyway, and it always worked. I guess Instagram’s doing something to figure out who the requester is.

Another advantage of Tweetbot is the simplicity of its timeline. Each tweet appears once, whether it’s an original statement or a reply. In contrast, Twitter tries to provide context for replies by showing them along with excerpts from the conversation they were part of. While I appreciate that Twitter believes this makes conversations easier to follow, I don’t find that it does. In fact, I find myself often missing the new tweets in a conversation because my eyes glaze over as I keep seeing the same excerpts over and over. It’s true that Tweetbot’s minimalist timeline can sometimes lead to puzzling isolated replies, but context is only a right-to-left swipe away.

Twitter reply chain

Lack of clutter is also why I prefer Tweetbot’s Mentions tab to Twitter’s Notifications. The retweets, favorites, and follows in Notifications are a distraction from what I really want to see, which is what people are saying to me. If I want to see that other stuff, I can go to Twitter Analytics or Favstar.

You’ll note that I haven’t said anything yet about the Twitter and Tweetbot Mac apps. That’s because neither are especially good. Tweetbot, though, has one big advantage: it actually stays in sync with its iOS counterpart. The two Twitter apps sometimes sync up nicely, but often drift away from each other. This is especially annoying to me because I switch back and forth between my iPhone and my Macs several times during the day. The whole point of using sister apps is to avoid scrolling around to find where I was on another device. Tweetbot gives that to me, Twitter doesn’t.

On the whole, I was impressed with how much better Twitter for iOS has become. It just hasn’t improved enough to take over for Tweetbot.

  1. From here on, I’m going to be calling the official Twitter app “Twitter” instead of “the official Twitter app” and hoping that there’s no confusion between the app and the service.