There is an interesting dichotomy that occurs when smartphone users partake in the use of apps. Some prefer the consistency and reliability of brand name apps to deliver an entirely adequate experience while others can a bit more adventurous, dipping their toes into 3rd party waters for the promise of ‘more.'
Whatever personal stakes are involved in choosing an app, most users just want the best experience possible. Choosing the best is easy when options are limited. However, when 3rd party developers step to the plate offering robust and extended experiences, choosing the best can become a chore.
Take, for instance, the almost embarrassment of riches that await a Twitter user on the Windows phone (mostly involving the Windows 10 Mobile) platform. While the official Twitter app tends to be slow when implementing new features for Windows phones, 3rd party developers have recently gathered in mass to offer users the same first class experiences as received on other platforms.
But, what is the best Twitter experience on Windows phones?
To answer that, I had a look at the top performing Twitter apps on the platform.
First up I explored the popular Windows desktop app Tweetium that has been ported to the Windows Mobile experience. On the desktop, Tweetium represents arguably, one of the best Twitter experiences on any platform. With a layout complimentary to the wide displays of laptops and desktop screens, viewing timelines, messages, hashtags and much more is a joy.
When Tweetium is shrunken to the more constrained screen size of a smartphone, some of the magic gets lost in translation. Animations, shifting of conversations, and visual stacking of tweets all get a little muddled as the new shorten screen size compacts the app.
Opening up single tweet conversations on the apps desktop counterpart enables in-line viewing, allowing users to see new and incoming tweets while addressing previous ones. On the phone, however, exploring a single tweet now opens up a separate dialog screen.
In and of itself, the experience is perhaps negligible for most, but worth noting. Beyond my few minor aesthetic quibbles, however, the app offers large hi-res images, Windows phone theme support settings, fonts adjustments, support for Twitter videos and Gifs, as well as image downloads position tracking.
For better or for worse, though, some of the app's finer grained settings sit behind a paywall. While most Twitter users can get by with the initial set of features unlocked with the $2.99 purchase of the app, power users will need to fork over $7.99 for a 12-month subscription to Tweetium Pro.
Included in the Pro package are features such as:
- Support for up to 7 Twitter accounts
- Customizable real-time push notifications
- More detailed Connect+ views
- TweetMaker for support of last read Tweet positions
- Views of inline news story previews and an ‘integrated reading experience.’
So if a user is willing to pay to play, Tweetium and Tweetium Pro perhaps deliver the most robust experience on both Windows desktops and mobile devices.
I, however, am a cheapskate, and so moving on, I played with another Twitter app alternative called Aeries.
Aeries hit the Windows Store a little over a year ago, and with its arrival came the promise of a modern lightweight Twitter experience. Unfortunately, out of the gate, the app stumbled a bit as it rushed to add features.
Over the course of the year, however, the developer has proven that persistence and patience are virtues. Aeries now sits in the Windows Store with a 4.6 average rating for both mobile and PC use thanks to its support of the Universal Windows App platform.
Aeries offers the same mainstay features of Tweetium at the same entry price of $2.99, but unlike Tweetium, developer Brad Stevenson has managed to incorporate push notifications, inline response icons, a full-screen video that links out to a users preferred video app, and image support at no additional charge.
Perhaps more impressive is the app's use of adjusted screen real estate. Where Tweetium defaults to an enlarged single time stream that is centered, Aeries utilizes the entire screen to show a dual pane view. While the results are arguably the same, the visual presentation can make all the difference for the horizontal phone warrior.
Even though Aeries offers a plethora of settings options and viewing modes, the app still struggles with the occasional thematic issue of switching from a dark theme to a light one for no apparent reason ( a bug perhaps, or even user error, who knows?). Also, Aeries seems to struggle with granting granular push notification settings, either defaulting to enabling ALL or NONE push notifications rather than allowing users to select from whom they received notifications.
Other features include:
- Filters allow you to block anything from Users to Tweets containing specific text (regex support included).
- Save the position you have read in each of your timelines.
- Manage drafts lists for the ultimate power user experience.
- Offline support so you can keep reading even when your signal has given up.
- Massively customizable, make Aeries yours with custom Gestures, themes.
- Pin sections that are important to you to the home screen. From your home timeline, lists, to saved searches.
- Support for custom services such as Pocket and Instapaper.
TweetIt! and Fenice
The next two apps, TweetIt! For Windows and Fenice for Twitter are almost mirror images of each other. Both apps offer the same set of in-depth Twitter settings and options and minimalistic Windows Universal app design.
However, where Fenice for Twitter will shake a user's pocketbook to the tune of $1.99, Tweet It! for Windows is a whopping $5.99. In addition, where Tweet It! for Windows offers a similar dual pane viewing experience within the app when the phone is horizontal, Fenice for Twitter defaults to an enlarged single timeline view.
Fenice does provide a nifty ‘Go to Top’ option that allows users to jump to the top of their timelines from whereever they happen to be in their timeline at the moment. The ‘Go to Top’ option fades in and out as not to distract while reading, but reminding users there’s a safety net available if they happen to get lost in their Twitter stream.
Unfortunately, neither Fenice for Twitter nor TweetIt! For Windows do an especially stellar job when it comes to pushing notifications. Fenice for Twitter defaults to a similar ‘Enable’ all notifications settings like Aeries, and TweetIt! For Windows does not readily appear to have push notification settings listed anywhere in the app. Thanks to TweetIt! For Windows' ability to utilize the dual pane view, it's trending section also has become a pleasure to use while also keeping up with a curated timeline in juxtapose.
Features for Fenice for Twitter include:
- Interactive notifications: reply, add to favorites or retweet a mention without even launch the app! Works for direct messages too!
- What You See Is What You Get when composing a tweet
- Predictive HashTag suggestions - Text Snippets
- Pin the Tweet Page to start to tweet quickly without opening the full app
- Memes are everywhere. Add them to your tweets from the app
- Add tweets to your Pocket or Instapaper account
- No internet connection but with a good tweet in mind? Send it anyway even without connection and we'll tweet it as soon as you get connected again!
- Streaming! You don't need to refresh to see new tweets, Fenice will show new tweets automagically!
- Listen to SoundCloud music from tweets without leaving the app
- Create and manage your lists - Powerful filters: mute hashtags, Clients, and Users
- Create and manage drafts
Official Twitter app
Finally, there is the official Twitter app for Windows Phone that has since been ported to Windows 10 Mobile, for better or worse. As I mentioned earlier, the app is slow to bring new and cutting edge features to the platform.
Twitter for Windows Phone was developed under a different paradigm in Microsoft’s mobile computing effort. Using a simple pivot swipe navigation, the app does excel at easy one-handed use. While strictly and aesthetic interpretation, the large icons at the top prove very useful as well as the drag to refresh motions over the sometimes hard to find refresh icons of newer apps. The segmentation of tweets is also readily visible for people who have trouble with near-sighted imagery.
Yes, the app is still utilizing the star iconography for likes over the more recent change to hearts, and users are still waiting for better inline media playback features, but the one thing I found most desirable about the app was its consistent and reliable push notification settings. Being the official Twitter app, it leverages Twitter servers to allow for more consistent and granular push notifications that other options seem to stumble over. Users can easily handpick who they do and do not want bubbling up in their notification shade.
Also, being the official app, the Twitter app for Windows phones is free, which is the right price for some (myself included). The Twitter app for Windows phones also appears to be the only app so far to support the Microsoft Band and Band 2 with notifications, extending its arguably archaic existence just a bit more.
For some, keeping up with Twitter can be a lifeblood, and having access to finely curated notifications may make all the difference. With Twitter putting its newer Twitter offering in the Windows Store for desktops, which has thus supported all the latest features for Twitter, it’s a wonder why the mobile experience has languished for so long. If and when Twitter decides to officially make its app a Universal Windows app, the app could be the best Twitter experience on Windows Phone.
For many, Twitter represents a rather personal social media experience and with so many great app choices available on the platform, it is difficult to know what’s being offered and which devs are delivering the best bang for the buck. Perhaps, analogous to the risky unknown world of 3rd party experiences, Windows phone users are almost forced by the nature of a maturing market to be explorative when choosing their next app experience.
With one of the smallest market shares in the mobile industry, the Windows Phone app story is a relatively short one. Not enough phones being sold has equated into not enough developers supporting the platform. However, the ones who do so have proven to be stellar and almost magician-like when delivering an app experience.
Having experienced the various 3rd party offerings for a Twitter experience on Windows phones, including paid apps, I nevertheless came away appreciating the official Twitter app most of all. Its simplistic design coupled with the best push notification experience, low price of entry, and best overall stability and performance of any of the apps put it over the top for me.
Naturally, others' experiences may vary, and I would love to hear your thoughts on the best Twitter experience you’ve had on Windows phones.