Alternative Twitter Apps

With the advent of iPadOS and development work at Twitter, Inc. the iPad Twitter app has become unstable. As of iPadOS 13.1, multiple users are seeing the following problems.

  • Each time the app is updated, view mode switches from the most recent to “Home” view. Most users prefer the timeline view.
  • In both home and timeline views, the app interrupts what you are doing to refresh the view.
  • The app segfaults at random
  • The app hangs in the tweet editor
  • The app segfaults in the tweet editor

In this article, we’ll look at an alternative Twitter app. There are two well regarded apps, Twitteriffic and Tweetbot having similar user interfaces and none of the rude behaviors mentioned above.

References

  1. https://twitterrific.com/ios/
  2. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/twitterrific-tweet-your-way/id580311103
  3. https://tapbots.com/tweetbot/
  4. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/tweetbot-5-for-twitter/id1018355599

Twitter App Design Issues and Bugs

For many users, the design of the official Twitter app is just wrong. For me, its tweet view has the following shortcomings.

  • Twitter is offering two selectable views of the tweet stream, Home and Latest which have different unknown selection algorithms. Home appears to be latest with low engagement items filtered out. This is forcing the user to visit the profiles of each of low frequency or low engagement poster being followed.
  • Tweets appear multiple times with one or two replies cluttering the tweet stream being viewed.
  • Replies and threads are integrated into the view in a way that clutters it.
  • It is hard to see a thread. Viewing the thread is initiated implicitly by clicking on the item. Depending on the region clicked, you may get the thread or you may get the tweet clicked. There is no one place to see the thread in its entirety.
  • The tweet view is refreshed at random, usually in the middle of reading a thread. Apparently, a bug is triggering the new refresh rather than exposing the refresh button
  • The app segfaults frequently (references a stale pointer to memory not held).
  • The app hangs frequently waiting for input with input events blocked. This happens most commonly in the tweet editor and is most easily invoked by adding a photo or video but can happen on initial open.

Overview of Tweetbot and Twitteriffic

The recent troubles prompted me to restore Twitteriffic and Tweetbot to see if they suffered from the UI hangs and segfaults. They are not hanging or segfaulting so the problems are in the Twitter app itself and not the network API that the three apps use.

Common features

Both applications have the following features in common.

  • They have iPad and iPhone versions
  • The iPad version supports landscape and portrait views
  • The iPad version supports light and dark themes following iPadOS preferences
  • The tweet organization is “latest”
  • Retweets and replies appear as discrete events.
  • Each tweet view offers a conversation view and a replies view that let you see the tweet in context and read all of the replies.
  • Both apps let you initiate view refresh. It is not automatic.
  • An individual tweet’s replies can be shown by user action. Replies are never threaded onto a tweet inline.
  • Reply tweeting is supported
  • Retweet tweeting with and without comment is supported
  • You can read your top level tweets
  • You can read all of your mentions
  • Top-level and mention views work like the timeline view. The selection filter is the only difference.
  • Both apps use the Twitter API to log in giving full support to password recovery and two factor authentication.
  • Both are very similar in their tweet layout and presentation of the app controls in the view.
  • Global controls that select the current view are presented in a controls bar at top or side.
  • Both present the post-specific controls following a tap on the post body.

Differentiating features

As you can see from the list of differences, it may be appropriate to keep both products about as Tweetbot gives easy access to translation (two Dutch peeps occasionally forget they have international followers), and to tweet correction (delete and edit tweet).

  • Twitterific’s App Store page is more detailed than Tweetbot’s
  • Twitteriffic App Store page tracks issue fixes and enhancements
  • Twitteriffic appears to support iPadOs split screen
  • Tweetbot’s post gear control lets you view details, view post retweets, and view a post translation
  • Twitteriffic’s post ellipsis control lets you see the discussion (thread and reply formats), share the tweet, delete and edit a tweet, or delete a tweet.
  • Tweetbot can invoke Twitter’s universal translator
  • Tweetbot has some support for lists (i’ve not figured out lists)
  • Twitteriffic easily supports multiple users in a session with view switching and multiple views active in split screen.
  • Tweetbot appears to require a logout and login to switch users.

I was able to configure Twitteriffic for Dave, Nick, and Missy accounts and to switch between them. I’ve not yet discovered this facility in Tweetbot. Support for multiple users causes me to give the nod to Twitteriffic but I’ll use Tweetbot when my deerhound buddies slip into Dutch.