The Hills Are Greener: Blue Birds Don’t Like Green Robots

The Hills Are Greener: Blue Birds Don’t Like Green Robots

Nov 19, 2012

Twitter has a problem on Android. It’s just not a whole lot of fun to use on a serious basis thanks to the mediocre official app, and thanks to Twitter’s policies regarding third-party clients, it’s not going to get any better unless Twitter makes it better.

The disdain for third-party clients is why it was shocking to see Echofon make the jump to Android. Coincidentally, after Echofon’s release on Google Play, another well-loved Twitter app, Tweet Lanes, had an announcement from its developer: the app’s development was being suspended due to Twitter’s limits. It was feature-incomplete, but possibly the best Twitter app for Android because of how well-designed it was. But it’s dead for all intents and purposes now.

While their app is fundamentally buggy and clunky on Android (considering it’s an iOS product first and foremost), Twitter, for what it’s worth, is going for a consistent look and feel aacross its various mobile products. That’s to be commended. But it feels like there’s too tight of a coherence to these principles to work well on Android. The mobile browser version isn’t much better either. Surely there has to be a way to do both a great app that runs well too.

So this leaves Android users in a lurch: the future of third-party apps is dim. Echofon has a $4.99 Pro version now, but once they hit 100,000 users, they’re done. The same goes for every Twitter client going forward: they can only get so many users before being shut down, because Twitter’s really not going to raise the limit on standard clients; perhaps if one does things in a way that really differentiates from what Twitter is doing, then perhaps, but it seems highly unlikely.

Compare this situation to iOS where multiple clients have been established: Tweetbot is probably the most-popular choice, Twittelator is a long-active client with multiple versions, Twitteriffic has been updated for iOS 6 and iPhone 5 features, and there’s plenty of smaller clients out there. But these clients are dead apps walking. Eventually, it will be untenable for them to keep expanding their apps. They will need to work on something else.

Twitter wants to control the mainstream client experience. Developers and their clients helped them get established: now they’re tossing them aside because they see the future in a way that they get to control the experience entirely. But here’s the thing: they need to make sure that experience is a good one on Android. It’s the biggest mobile platform out there, and it deserves an app that works well, not the mediocre experience that Twitter is currently pushing on the platform. And if Twitter is unwilling to provide such an experience, then they should allow others to do so.

Timer, Tweet Lanes, and the Importance of Holo

Timer, Tweet Lanes, and the Importance of Holo

Aug 27, 2012

I recently found out about an app called Timer, which is extremely simple: it’s a timer app, restoring some functionality that isn’t present in the stock Jelly Bean clock, and also featuring expanded notifiaction support for start/stop and restarting the timer. It’s a simple app, yet it feels like a great fit with Android 4.x devices.

However, we’re seeing a few more apps taking advantage of the Holo theme and Android 4.x design themes. Tweet Lanes is probably the most popular example, having seen a great number of downloads for 4.x phones and even for the Nexus 7. Flipster integrates some Holo theme and 4.x design elements in it as well.

Android needs apps like these, with consistent design themes. Apps that have a distinct look and feel to them that screams Android, that represent the platform and look good while running smoothly, they will strengthen the platform. When users can expect some apps to have familiar looks and feels, then the platform feels more legitimate.

The problem is that thanks to all the Android variants out there, there’s no consistent look to the platform. Phone manufacturers have generally tried to prevent this for their own benefit by applying their own look to the platform. Google is trying their best to keep the stock look, though. The Galaxy Nexus may be the most widely-spread Nexus phone yet thanks to it being on multiple carriers, and as one of the best values as an unlocked phone. The Nexus 7 is estimated to sell 8 million units this year. There’s plenty of value to Holo.

So, while there’s the challenge of getting developers to accept this style for their apps, especially when iOS and its design principles are still dominant, the rise of Android devices out there leads to the hope that developers for the platform will accept it and adopt it. The apps that are using Holo themes and Android design standards are impressively smooth. They are great examples of how Android apps should be working. More developers that take advantage of this, the more likely that Android can develop that consistent look and feel that it needs.

Tweet Lanes is a Twitter App Designed for Ice Cream Sandwich Users

Tweet Lanes is a Twitter App Designed for Ice Cream Sandwich Users

Jul 10, 2012

Tweet Lanes is a Twitter app for the 1%. Or at least, the 10% of users on Ice Cream Sandwich. See, this Twitter app is designed specifically for ICS and Jelly Bean devices, made around the design guidelines of Android 4.x. This means that there are the dropdown arrows and action menu featured prominently throughout the app. There’s a carousel of lanes above the timeline, showing tweets, mentions, and various lists that can also be swiped between. Want to reply to a tweet? Just tap on it, and type out the reply in the persistent tweet bar below.

The app is still early: there are no settings at all, the ability to customize which lanes are visible is not implemented yet, and other features need to be added. However, what the app is in its current state is well-designed, and still a good basic Twitter app. There’s not a lot in the way of well-designed Android apps, and over time, this could prove to be a valuable contender in a world where the official Twitter app runs slowly on older phones, and who knows when TweakDeck is going to get updated, much less the original TweetDeck. Tweet Lanes is currently free, and all future features can be unlocked by sending out a kinda-spammy tweet promoting the app.