On Returning to the Official iPhone Twitter App

I don’t tweet a lot, but I do check Twitter on a daily basis to catch up on news. I’ve used Tweetbot for years and have been very happy with it, but a recent convo with a friend got me to try the official Twitter app again — and I’ve been quite surprised by how good it has become. Twitter’s official app is in much better shape than Facebook’s own mobile app.

Rich Tweets

One of the first things I noticed in my return to Twitter’s app is how it treats links within tweets. Whereas Tweetbot will expand most links, Twitter seems to expand all of them. I’m liking this change right now because it makes my feed feel a little more rich, and an interesting hero image can compel me to visit a webpage more often than 140-character description.

The downside to this is that it can take a lot longer to scroll through my feed. The whole list is long because most of the people I follow will link to articles or images. I’ll have to see which I prefer over the long term: occasional bits of media and a lot of text, or a timeline that’s littered with text and rich media.

Ads

There aren’t that many ads in the Twitter app so far, but I’m not used to seeing any because they aren’t displayed in third-party apps. These ads are well-disguised because they themselves are tweets that look like they’ve been retweeted, but they’ll say “Promoted” at the bottom instead. However they do stand out because very few of them are relevant to me so far. They show me carrier ads for phone networks I don’t use, networking ads for IT-level hardware that I don’t know about, and car ads when I don’t even have a driver’s license. Considering how many tech people I follow, it’s surprising to see how irrelevant the ads are, and that makes them stick out all the more.

That said, the experience isn’t too disruptive. A good 95% of my feed is still content from people that I follow, and I’m only noticing ads when I first load the app up. They tend to be on the first 2-4 screens that I scroll through, and I don’t see any more until I have to load more tweets (once I’ve reached the bottom of the cached timeline).

Direct Messages

This is the area where I’ve felt my Twitter experience has changed the most. I’ve met a few acquaintances over Twitter and traded some DMs, but Twitter seems to limit the capabilities of direct messaging in third party apps. Tweetbot and Twitterrific are only able to send and receive text, so I’d become accustomed to the idea that DMs were a very limited form of communication.

But in the official Twitter app, DMs are a much more modern messaging service. I can attach photos and videos, and GIFs, which make for much easier conversations when talking with friend or even customer support teams. I never use the Twitter web app or the official client on my Mac or PC, so I had completely lost touch with how much direct messages had evolved in the service.

Moments

I think Moments are supposed to be Twitter’s way of helping to surface emerging stories and topics. I’ve used them once to try the feature out, and have never touched the tab again. It’s an interesting idea because Twitter is such a noisy space, but after swiping through a few different Moments, I didn’t actually get a sense of a cohesive narrative. Moments just feel like a slightly smarter execution of hashtags, and I don’t really use those much either.

Twitter on iPhone, Tweetbot on iPad

I’ve been pretty happy with this switch to Twitter on the iPhone, and I’m impressed with how up-to-date their apps are. The iPhone app supports 3D Touch and features like dark mode, so it’s a real winner in my book.

Unfortunately the iPad app doesn’t feel as polished, so I’ll definitely be sticking with Tweetbot on my tablet. Twitter does have a few keyboard shortcuts, but not nearly enough to make navigation of the timeline feel smooth (pressing Space to move the timeline in Tweetbot is a killer feature).

However, for absolutely zero money down, I’m quite impressed with the experience that Twitter is offering for their first-party app. I’d you haven’t checked it out in a while because you were discouraged by earlier versions, now is a pretty good time to return.

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