Recently, app.net (shortened to ADN) opened its floodgates and started handing out free accounts, via invitation only. Given that the “Twitter clone that’s not just a Twitter clone” is starting to get a lot more populated, it seemed like an apt time to look for a great ADN client on Android.
Despite its so-called “beta status” and comparably high cost of entry, Robin is a standout option and may be the best app in its class. It’s easily the best beta experience I’ve ever had with any software. It offers a list of features a mile long, native tablet support, and developers who are interested in pushing the app forward. Read on to find out what makes Robin for app.net so special.
Among other things, the first thing you’re going to notice is how beautiful the Holo-themed interface looks. Your Timeline is the first thing you’ll see, but you can swipe to the right to see your Mentions and the Global Stream. Swiping to the left reveals a scrollable bar that gives you access to everything else, including Search, Settings, and Starred Posts. The design is gorgeous; Robin has quickly soared to the top of my favourite Android apps based solely on its appearance.
The developers recently added a gorgeous dark theme, which is extremely high-contrast — white text on an off-grey screen — so it’s extremely readable even in the brightest of outdoor situations. I’ve been sitting on a patio on a sunny Easter and enjoying some time on the app today, and never found the dark theme difficult to read, even in direct sunlight.
A Tablet-Optimized Layout
The tablet interface takes advantage of the larger screen, so flipping your device to landscape shows both your Timeline and Mentions at the same time — you can also look at both your Mentions and the Global Stream. It’s clever and easy to read despite the smaller columns, even on my Nexus 7’s smaller screen. I imagine it looks even better and becomes that much more useable on a larger screen.
It’s clear that the developers took some time to make sure that the tablet interface was useful instead of just gimmicky, and I’m glad they did. It looks great and it’s as easy to navigate as the phone experience.
As far as the interface goes, I can’t stress how beautiful it is. I use Rivr and Netbot on iOS, and Robin and Dash on Android. Robin has what might be the prettiest interface out of all of them, and it’s one of the most polished beta apps I’ve ever used. The app is responsive, never crashes, and is one of the most intuitive Android apps I’ve installed onto any of my Android devices. [Ed note: Robin also offers one of the most original and beautiful inline image previews I’ve ever seen. The preview of any image in your timeline will scroll along as you scroll your timeline. It’s hard to describe, but it’s quite a sight to behold!]
As far as Robin’s feature list goes, there’s not much you can’t do within the app: It’s easy to change your profile description, take pictures with the service, and send messages. The app offers PM and Patter-support as well as support for ADN storage for photos, not to mention img.ly and bli.sm.
The app isn’t shy on settings either, and they get pretty in-depth. I’ll take a look at the notification settings as an example: Robin features what the developers describe as “next-to-realtime notification alerts”, which simply means that the maximum delay you’ll have in receiving a notification is one minute. All the iOS clients I’ve used offer realtime notifications, and I’m not sure what the developers would need to change to get this feature touched up in Robin, but it is possible. That being said, one minute delay is nothing to be concerned about. Beyond that, you can adjust just about any part of the notification experience. Want some quiet time at night? Set up a scheduled quiet mode in the setting. You can choose the notification sound, turn vibration on or off, or even use a custom notification LED if your device supports it.
Some people will be disappointed that there aren’t any widgets available for Robin, yet, but that’s not something I’m too worried about. I’m not sure the app really needs widgets. I’d prefer to see some additional image enhancements, because despite everything that Robin does, it doesn’t push any of ADN’s boundaries.
One quick example is image editing. On iOS, Rivr allows some Instagram-like filters you can process your images with before posting. There’s nothing like this on Robin — or any other ADN app that I’ve encountered. You also can’t shoot video or tell the world what song you’re listening to with the tap of a button. These aren’t necessary features, but they’re forward-thinking and ADN’s infrastructure can handle them.
Do these things really matter though? If you’re using ADN as a paid Twitter-like social network that offers privacy and promises further innovation, it doesn’t make a difference right now. It might do a couple of years down the road though. At the moment, Robin is the best ADN experience on Android, hands-down. I just hope they continue to be forward-thinking as ADN adds more features to its API.
The Future of ADN and Robin
Given the nearly $4 cost of Robin and the steep annual membership fee associated with ADN, it’s valid to ask whether Robin is good enough to push you to try ADN. Personally, I don’t think it necessarily makes ADN worth a yearly subscription, but if you’re already a member or can snag an invite to a free account, I don’t think you can top this experience on Android right now. How many ADN users stick around after a year, or even the longevity of the network itself, is another question entirely.
That being said, ADN is all about the potential future. It’s essentially a platform for developers that enables them to create boundary-pushing apps with social in mind — and frankly encourages that. With this in mind, I’d like to see Robin’s developers experiment with some more advanced features, particularly as it exits beta and moves towards becoming a stable and fully-featured app.
In that sense, Robin and ADN are in similar places: both of them are in beta modes. You’re paying now for a piece of the future of social networking. It is worth it? That depends on whether or not you’re an early adopter. I believe the future is bright and I can’t wait to see where Robin and ADN go together. So if you’re looking for a great ADN client on Android — or looking for a good reason to join the network — look no further than Robin.
Despite its beta status, Robin has no issues and is a nearly perfect ADN client. Some people will want a widget, but the app's potential is going to be dependent on the social network's success.9
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