Tweetbot 5 for iOS Review
On Windows XP ballot day, I spent my beatnik-ass time marveling at the (seemingly) abrupt availability of some genuinely innovative social apps on the Apple App Store for the first time since iOS 7(?) Of course, I am aware that reasonable people would regard a “sneak peek,” NDA-violating, perfectly Adobe Premiered app review to be pretty fucking lame, and I won’t dispute any accusations to the tune of “just an insane white guy with a WordPress site,” but I still believe it’s important to talk about software especially because virtually everyone uses it (as opposed to quieting down just when these apps and the people who make them attain the most advantageous possible position to fuck the whole world.)
That said, I’m going to keep this as brief and unrevisionist as I can: Tweetbot’s latest iteration may actually justify the dedicated subreddit I’ve just discovered! (Reddit’s the last place anyone wants to talk about apps, I guess.) I’ve complained at length about Twitter’s increasingly hostile (but justified, sortof) treatment of its once astonishingly diverse landscape of third-party clients and tools, yet I’d honestly grown significantly in accepting that the dynamic would never again see the power of the world’s most cash-stuffed companies delivered into the sweaty hands of small, kooky one and two-man teams, and it never would’ve occurred to me that Tweetbot was still around — much less getting ready to update its trusty old app with a release that would suddenly make it clearly more stable and better-looking than its last competitor: the Native Fuck, itself, which has also undergone significant cosmetic surgery, recently. Namely, they moved the one fucking button that’s given the app a usability premium over its mobile web-based low-rent clone.
“The compose button has been moved to the bottom right-hand corner and “floats” as users scroll down their timeline. That means the button is always available to quickly send a tweet when the mood strikes.”
Yeah okay, Matt.
We’ve got a shiny, new compose button to unveil on Twitter for iOS! Easier than ever to use, the floating icon is prominently displayed and perfect for one-handed scrolling and Tweet composing. Pro tip: Press and hold the icon to access your drafts, photos, and the GIF gallery. -@TwitterSupport
Twitter Support is no @Cher, yeah, but it seems strange that less than a thousand of Twitter’s more than 300 million monthly users would bother to engage with the announcement of a significant fundamental change to its infrastructure. Imagine if the federal government announced via White House press conference that every stoplight in the United States was going to have its yellow light removed to “streamline workflow” without any further explanation, yet only 1000 total Americans even bothered to tune in to the television coverage across all the news networks. It’d be strange, yeah? Well, y’all are using Twitter more than you’re driving, I’ll bet. Next time, get out and vote on my Twitter poll, you fascist!
In my Twitter glory days — that is, when I used to spend the entirety of every one of my community college classes Tweeting from my phone — there was a healthy offering of third-party clients on both mobile and desktop that filled the english of the era’s software media with an absolutely barbaric brand-beaten pile of linguistic Twittrash. After Twinkle — one of the earliest and ugliest ways to use Twitter ever — you’d have to choose between Twitpic, Tweetdeck, Twittercounter, Twitterfeed, Twhirl, Twitturly, Twtpoll, Retweetist, Tweepler, Hellotxt, Twitdom, Tweetscan, Tweetburner, Tweetvisor, Twittervision, Twibs, Twistori, and Twitbin. These are just a few I picked up from a 10-year-old TechCrunch report listing the top 21 Twitter applications by traffic.
Now, I have to stop myself from digging too deep here and attempting something absurd like The History of Twitter Clients, but the fucking material is there! I could spend an entire afternoon going through YouTube searches and gadget blogs because it brings me back to that time when I lived every day assuming these things were going to continue to astonish for my entire adulthood. So many incredible ideas! However, I’m going to save them for later and focus on the cream of the crop, so to speak: Twitterific and Tweetbot, which has been a longtime favorite of mine. As I said, it was in community college that I first ponied up money for Tweetbot 3 on my iPhone 4S simply because the hype over it among app and gadget nerds was so bonkers that it managed to spill over into my life, despite the fact that iOS7 and I were having serious issues in our marriage.
If you trust Mark Watson with your life as I do, you’d better believe that Tweetbot has been “a screamer” since its very beginning, when it pioneered the Premium Poweruser segment, for which a demographic apparently still exists. It was fast, yet always noticeably smoother than the native app, just as the newest release is today. I must point out, though, that the bloggers and YouTubers who’ve insisted that Tweetbot or Twitterrific or any other premium app could replace the native Twitter app entirely on iPhone even before they were stripped of a most live/push functionality (which I’ll come back around to in just a moment,) are undoubtedly lying to themselves — as good as they got, they never overtook Twitter’s own app in immediacy terms, which is almost inevitably going to present fundamental deterrence on the part of the active Twitter user who intends to rid themselves of the default pedestrian avenue of administration. Tweetbot solved a lot of things, it really is daft when it comes to notifications. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if they came a few hundred seconds late — it’s that they’re never predictably or consistently so, which severs entirely the human perception of engaged plugged-in-ness, if you will. It’s the same phenomena Chuck Klosterman explores best in the context of DVRing live sports to watch later.
It’s difficult to project fictional scenarios that are more oblique and unexpected than the craziest moments from reality. We all understand this. And that understanding is at the core of the human attraction to liveness. We don’t crave live sporting events because we need immediacy; we crave them because they represent those (increasingly rare) circumstances in which the entire spectrum of possibility is in play. -“Space, Time, and DVR Mechanics” by Chuck Klosterman
Tweetbot is unquestionably a more thorough environment in which to explore Twitter than any other third party client, but it can’t do the live thing. (Please do complain to Twitter, Inc. about the API situation if you’re so inclined, though.) All I’m trying to say is, there is no fucking reason you’d delete the Twitter app — hide it away in a folder and never ever open it again if it disgusts you so, but leave its notifications settings on so that it can keep itself busy in there. Now that is a smart workflow! In fact, it was mine! And it did work for such a long time that you’d probably forget about the arrangement in no time were there not the occasional obvious discrepancies between Tweetbot’s Mention’s tab and the native app’s instant notifications. There has never been — nor will there be, I think — a client for Twitter that can replace some use of its own properties.
I think Tweetbot 3 made me into my own ridiculous equivalent of a “poweruser.” Things are a little hazy now, but I know that I departed my main Twitter account just before the app’s release, and I didn’t come back until 2015. I was going to school in the same old mall building that housed the tool store in which I was also working in full-time, which is surely the only explanation for the shamelessness I demonstrated in bringing a wireless Apple Bluetooth keyboard to my classes and placing it behind the phone on whatever surface was in front of me so that I could lean forward and type into iOS with my nose damned near touching the screen. Strangely, I was not able to verify when Bluetooth keyboard support was added to iOS, but we’re going to conclude for the sake of convenience that it was first included in the immediate predecessor to the iPhone 4S I was using then.
The cognoscenti have been on Twitter for years now. Stephen Fry, the web service’s patron saint — in Britain at least, joined in 2008. However, it wasn’t until early 2009, xsomewhere around the time that Fry tweeted while stuck in a lift, that the service went truly mainstream. Mentions of Twitter, usually involving celebrities, could be found in newspapers and on breakfast television. -“Top 10 technology highlights of 2009 ” | The Telegraph
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve already seen the demos and skimmed reviews at least. You should know by now whether or not Tweetbot 5 is worth it to you in purely functional terms, but I think we should all acknowledge that this release of Tweetbot is likely the last competitive third-party Twitter app for iOS. The mess that is Twitter, Inc. has made clear this year that it intends to prioritize its own clients over maintaining the APIs necessary for others to receive push notifications. And when I say “its own,” I’m also referring to our dearest TweetDeck, which they in fact absorbed. From a business perspective, it makes sense: only “six million App Store and Google Play users installed the top five third-party Twitter clients between January 2014 and July 2018,” according to TechCrunch. I never expected to see Tweetbot on the App Store charts again, nor would I have considered that Echophon, TweetCaster or Twitterrific would have been left available. They’re on the App Store, at least, and I can confirm that they all technically still work, but it’s safe to say they’re showing their fucking age. Tweetbot and Twitterrific, though, are not just satellite products of the platform — they literally built it. These two are the poles that have spent Twitter’s lifetime thus far demonstrating for the company and its userbase their own respective interpretations of a mobile social application. Today, they are united — along with Talon and Tweetings — in a plea for continued access to the platform they helped establish on behalf of Twitter users and developers around the world.
Both Tweetbot and Twitterrific are in their 5th versions, and neither has actually changed much since iOS 7. (Twitterrific appears to still be in the same version number.) Facing the growing walls around the service, one struggles to imagine them surviving more than one or two iOS releases, but I’ve been wrong before. (In fact, I discovered yesterday that Lookbook is still around somehow.) By the time iOS 7 came around, the new native Twitter app still looked fucking terrible. When Tapbots released Tweetbot 3, everything about its visual experience was beyond anything we’d seen on the iPhone before and its effectiveness as a Twitter tool was immediately recognizable in contrast with even Jack’s brand-new app and mobile web experience. The animations were tasteful and smooth and the “pro user” label on Tapbot’s demographic allowed them to fully explore the functionality of iPhone’s gestures separate any bond with the hypothetically least-capable user.
This is a dynamic which I am apparently unable to avoid across just about all of my subjects — including digital media — so you may take it as generally unreasonable or extreme, but I’m nearly as tired of being treated as an idiot user as I am an idiot reader. Readability is to Usability, etc. It’s especially aggravating when I could do so much more if developers would just assume I’m capable of any knowledge acquisition or intellectual growth whatsoever. Except for a few leftover keyboard shortcuts, the native Twitter app’s only function are the most obvious to engage with, as per the highest possible standards of use, which would make perfect sense if it was paired with competent investments in Accessibility, but Twitter always appears to detest the subject, even while quietly putting in some of the work. Thanks to Mastodon’s explicit and visible acknowledgement of accessibility by way of just one young German man and a volunteer team, we certainly know it’s not because it’s an expensive one at all. (The “if Mastodon can do it than Twitter can definitely fucking do it” argument can be expanded almost without limit.)
Somewhere out there is a social media manager using a screen reader whose professionalism has been undermined by the belief that the update is available to everyone. We deserve equal access to the tools our peers take for granted, and the security to know that we will be able to do our jobs tomorrow regardless of updates. -Kit Englard for The Outline
I would like to commend myself now for making it this far without mentioning Lists — a subject which I’ve already Tweeted and written about extensively — but this time, I have the wondrous blessing of two premiere mobile software companies who recognized the potential power in list functionality to dispel or avoid most of the inherent risks assigned to the usage of a social network like Twitter and bet heavily on it. Neither can be utilized to the fullest without lists and wouldn’t it be such a shame to not get your money’s worth? Tapbots expanded their curative ability tremendously by adding customizable filters to any timeline in Tweetbot, allowing the user to infinitely manipulate incoming posts with any combination of every variable supported by the core Twitter code itself. Within a matter of seconds, you could create a filter that will exclude all Tweets except for those from unverified accounts that mention “blimps” and include a media attachment and apply this filter to any of the app’s timeline views — including Home, Mentions, Profile (your own Tweets,) your Favorites, and your Searches — everything but your Direct Messages can be sorted this way.
TweetBot and I accomplished a lot of sorting together, and it wouldn’t have occurred to me had it not crept to #1 Paid Social App again a few weeks ago that perhaps my bias towards Twitter lists could be entirely attributed to my early use of TweetBot and Twitterrific, which allowed me to amass a Following count of over 5000 without physically perishing or mentally disintegrating to the point of undeniable insanity. However, by the time TweetBot 4 was released in 2015, it had long since swapped places with the native app within my iPhone’s homescreens and was only used when I felt particularly like Tweetstorming from a stationary situation. From my wireless Apple Keyboard, this meant Cmd (⌘)-N to compose a Tweet and ⌘-Enter to send it.
Today — in Tweetbot 5 — this continues to be a tried-and-true method of Tweeting Tweets on Twitter, smoothly and efficiently, as always. Returning to Ye Olde Alternative in 2018 yields both familiar and newly-implemented goods: animation and audio notifications are carried over and/or updated as needed to maintain a fluid and fresh experience. The ability to switch between its intelligently-chosen color themes with a two-fingered vertical swipe, alone will be justification enough for many users like myself to hand over another $4.99 to the Tapbots developers who’ve managed against all odds to one-up Twitter’s own mobile app development one last time. Over any other alternative app, Tweetbot 5 retains the robust qualities necessary to achieve #1 Paid Social App status on the App Store despite its new API shackles.