Twitter Clients for Android: A Shakedown

Looking for a new Twitter client for your Android device? Here's a look at some of the most popular ones available.
Written by Scott Raymond, Inactive

Recently I have been noticing an unfortunate trend with my Twitter client of choice, Twidroyd. It's an excellent application, with all of the features that I have come to expect in a good Twitter client. However, there have been issues where Twitter disabled the client and other UberMedia apps from accessing the service due to violation of policy.

In addition, a number of bugs have crept in with new updates that make the app somewhat unusable - like being able to click on a tweet and reply to it, or the list of messages directed to the user instead shows up as a blank page--you need to exit and re-enter the app in order to get the function back. It appears to be totally random when these bugs will manifest. I'm sure the developer will work to correct these bugs, but until then I cannot keep using an application that is not functional.

Shopping around for a new Twitter client for your smartphone or tablet can be an exercise in frustration. For one thing, if you already have an application that you like and feel comfortable with, you don't really want to start looking for another. Think of your favorite brand of toothpaste or shampoo, and then imagine that it's suddenly been taken off of the market.

There's also the matter of dealing with a fairly large assortment of alternatives. It's difficult to know where to start, what to trust, and going through each application to determine which of them has the features you want/need and which ones are the easiest to use. And if you're anything like me, aesthetics play a huge role in the decision-making process. It has to look good while doing its job.

I decided that I would begin my selection process by popularity in terms of positive reviews and number of downloads. Keep in mind that this doesn't always work; just because an application is the most popular doesn't mean that you the user will appreciate it the same way all of those other people did. This allowed me to narrow down the choices to four strong candidates.

My required features were: Multiple accounts, URL shorteners, picture uploading, spam reporting that also blocks the user that sent the spam, the ability to disable sending when hitting the enter key, thumbnail previews of images, the ability to reply to all people mentioned in a tweet, and separate tabs for your timeline, replies, and direct messages. I was willing to shell out a few bucks for a decent client if it met all of my needs.

The first on my list, and ostensibly the most popular Twitter client in the world, was Tweetdeck. On the Windows and Mac platforms, Tweetdeck is an extraordinarily powerful application for Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Google Buzz and FourSquare. It is not as powerful on the Android platform, however. There is no thumbnail preview capability, and the interface is fairly dull. It is free, however, and that is something that appeals to many users.

Next on the list was TweetCaster by Handmark. TweetCaster is an excellent Twitter client. It looks sharp, is easy to use, has all of the features I mentioned above and also has some extras like ZipIt: the ability to censor tweets from users without having to actually unfollow them. Their tweets appear in your timeline as a zipper icon. The free application has a banner ad on the bottom of the screen. The paid version gets rid of the banner ad.

I also took another look at Plume, formerly knwon as Touiteur. It's a nice client and has all of the features I liked. The free version puts an ad at the top of your Twitter feed. The paid version removes this ad. I prefer muted colors, and while the default color scheme was a little off-putting, it was easy to customize it.

Finally I tried out Seesmic. When I first started using Twitter several years ago, I was using an application for the Adobe AIR platform called Twhirl. It was purchased in 2008, and development continued under the Seesmic masthead. The Seesmic client has a subdued, simple interface. It has all of the features I want, it's fast, and very easy to use. It's also free--there are no banner ads, either.

I thought there was a glitch with the spam-reporting feature; normally when you report spam, the user account is blocked and their tweets disappear from your timeline and replies. When I blocked a spammer, their tweet still showed up in the replies tab. It turns out that simply clearing the cache corrected the issue. When I mentioned it to their Twitter support account they replied immediately--on Easter Sunday, no less. That's excellent service for a free client.

When it came down to making my choice, I was torn between TweetCaster and Seesmic. All features being equal, the deciding factor was inevitably price. I have no problem paying for applications that suit my needs and perform their tasks adequately. But when both applications meet my specifications, the free one won out. So now I am using Seesmic as my Twitter application of choice.

Now, keep in mind that this is my personal choice. Everyone has their own sense of aesthetics, and what appeals to me might not appeal to others. As in many facets of life, personal choice is the deciding factor when specific capabilities are removed from the equation.

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