Rita El Khoury, My Twitter Clients: Twitter, Falcon Pro and Plume

I still remember having a few heated debates back in 2008 with social media advocates about the future of Twitter. At the time, although I had an account on the service, I had never used it. Instead, I was a firm believer that Jaiku — which Google later bought and used as a stepping stone for Buzz and Google+ — would prevail because of its native support for conversations. Twitter was a chaotic mess, with no way to follow a conversation back. But oh how things change!

In 2009, I had abandoned Jaiku and moved to Twitter. But when I switched to Android 2 years ago, the sheer amount of Twitter clients had me befuddled for months until I settled on the official app. Then I got bored, tried several alternatives again, used some for a while, dismissed others quickly… And up to this day, I don’t think there is one Twitter Android client to rule them all, so I use the official Twitter app on my phone, Falcon Pro on my tablet, and Plume on my Android TV stick. Read on to find out why.


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What I Need in a Twitter Client

My only quirky requirement for a Twitter app is multiple account support. As the editor of Android.Appstorm, I manage my personal account as well as the site’s account so having access to both on my main device is a must. Otherwise, I’m not too fussy. I don’t use lists or mute users, or need services like TwitLonger. I also don’t read all of my timeline, so I don’t care about position holding and syncing.

What I do care about is having a clean UI, a simple and fast experience, and I most importantly need an app that blends with the service and the device I’m using, requiring minimal mental effort. As I’ve experienced often, fancy graphics and hundreds of options simply stand between me and actually using Twitter. And I’ve noticed that my tweets subconsciously drop when I use clients that aren’t as intuitive as I’d like them to be. When that happens, I uninstall the offending app and move on.

Twitter on My Galaxy S3

For the longest time, my favorite Twitter client was Twitter’s official app. I’ve tried every other app under the sun, from TweetDeck to Tweetings, passing by the most obscure ones, yet the official client is the one that always seems to blend perfectly with my usage. Other than the fact that it’s free and has the advantage of implementing new features first, Twitter offers reliable Push Notifications. It’s also the cleanest client, and the last re-design made it even better in that regard.

Twitter's reply/reply all method (left) and conversation view (right).

Twitter’s reply/reply all method (left) and conversation view (right).

Here are some of the other under-appreciated features of the official client that I have grown so accustomed to it’s impossible to move to another app:

  • Reliable image uploads: image uploads have consistently failed — for me — on Plume and Falcon Pro, and were one of the main reasons I abandoned both apps on my phone.
  • Reply and Reply All are blended into one: when you click to reply to a tweet that mentions other persons, the compose window will keep the first person’s Twitter handle, and highlight everyone else. That way you can easily delete them and hence “Reply”, or type after them and hence “Reply All”. After having used it for almost 2 years, I simply can’t go to another client that makes me choose beforehand instead of simply clicking a Reply button.
  • Multiple drafts, as well as saving failed tweets in drafts: I often come across spotty reception areas, so knowing I can rely on my client to save every single failed tweet in that period of time is essential.
  • Searching for people and content in one box: if you write “droidappstorm” in Twitter’s search bar, it will give you the option to either search for that word in tweets, or go to @droidappstorm. Like the Reply/Reply All feature, this takes less mental effort than having to pick what you’re searching for before typing the text.
  • Ego-boosting features: you get to see who retweeted or favorited your tweet, your new followers and what lists you were added to. It’s really all about the ego boost!
  • Fully detailed tweet view: when you click on a tweet in Twitter, you get the past conversation, the replies that came after that tweet, and the number of Retweets and Favorites that it garnered. Last I checked, no other client offered that in one view. And again, this is another example of Twitter stepping away to the background, letting you enjoy the experience without having to fuss with buttons and options and long presses.

Falcon Pro on My Iconia A100

As much as I love the official Twitter client, I have to admit that it fails to make any impression on a tablet. Besides, my tablet Twitter usage is quite different from my phone’s. While on the phone I focus on quickly reading tweets, replying to questions, interacting with friends and uploading images, on the tablet, I consume content, so I spend more time viewing images and videos, checking links, and catching up on my favorited tweets. Falcon Pro is perfectly designed for that.

Falcon Pro is perfect for hopping between tweets and viewing their content.

Falcon Pro is perfect for hopping between tweets and viewing their content.

The dual-pane landscape layout of Falcon Pro is superbly suited for tablets. It even looks good — and works well — on smaller 7″ tablets like my Iconia A100. The left column keeps a list of tweets from the Timeline, Mentions or Messages, whereas the bigger right column displays everything related to a selected tweet. You can quickly jump between tweets and check conversations, preview images, play videos, or browse webpages. And swiping left and right reveals Falcon’s signature Menus that let you switch to search, favorites, lists, users and more.

Falcon Pro's signature sliding menus make even more sense on a tablet.

Falcon Pro’s signature sliding menus make even more sense on a tablet.

I had previously tried several other clients on my tablet that simply failed for me. Plume makes me feel like I’m running a stock trading market with its overload of information on several columns, Tweetcaster‘s tweet composing window is almost invisible on 7″ tablets, UberSocial for Twitter divides the landscape view into a teeny tiny right column and a comically large left column, and so on. You name it, I’ve tried it, and I wasn’t impressed. By comparison, Falcon Pro is simply almost tailor-made for tablets. Just perfect.

Plume on My Android TV Stick

This Christmas, I decided to invest in the last piece of Android equipment that I’m missing: an Android TV Stick. I bought the iMito MX1 and haven’t regretted it one bit — but note that several newer designs and better specc’ed devices have appeared since. While I mostly use the stick to watch movies, I also like to keep it running in the background while I work, and what better usage for that than a Twitter application to check on news?

When I got the iMito, I instantly installed Falcon Pro, thinking that it would also work wonderfully on a big 32″ screen. However, I quickly discovered that what makes Falcon Pro so perfect on tablets — namely its simple interface that relies on gestures — is what makes it fail on a TV Stick. With no touchscreen to control your device, you have to rely more on simple presses and scrolls, and Plume ended up being my preferred app on the TV.

Plume works well on a TV, and is easily controllable wirelessly.

Plume works well on a TV, and is easily controllable wirelessly.

It shows 2 simultaneous columns on my TV — which felt overloaded on a 7″ tablet, but is well-suited for a 32″ TV — and lets me access all functions with a wireless keyboard and trackpad. Also, thanks to live streaming, I have a continuously updating Twitter “ticker” on my TV that I can glance at while working, at any given moment. This also makes for a convenient setup when I’m actively following a specific event hashtag or search term.

What Works for Me…

…doesn’t necessarily work for you. As you see, my Twitter usage highly varies between phones, tablets, and TV sticks, and while I love using each of these apps on its corresponding hardware, I absolutely hate it on the other devices. I’m weird like that, but there’s also a case to be made for choices in interface design and feature sets.

Twitter, Falcon Pro, Plume, each of these has strengths and weaknesses that would make you love them or hate them depending on your devices and Twitter usage patterns. In the end, we’re all lucky enough to be part of an ecosystem that offers so much choice we have to spend hours trying different options and debating which is best for us.