The BlackBerry keyboard makes it an ideal device if you're addicted to Twitter, but how do you choose between all the different BlackBerry Twitter clients available? Road Worrier looks at some of the leading contenders.
There are plenty of good reasons why everyone should be using Twitter, and if (like this columnist) you're a heavy user and travel constantly, then using your mobile device for tweeting is the only sensible option. My device of choice is a BlackBerry (at the moment, the 8900). While the mobile Twitter site does an OK job for BlackBerry users, having a dedicated client makes it easier to send tweets quickly, and gives you access to features like picture uploads and automatic GPS tagging of your comments.
There are at least seven free Twitter clients for the BlackBerry, and for this review I tried to test all them. The key phrase there is "tried to": despite my best efforts, several of the packages — namely twibble, BlackBird, Tiny Twitter and BBTweet ) flat-out refused to work on the 8900, despite reinstalls, network jiggling and various other tricks. Most of these are in pre-1.0 releases, so that's perhaps to be expected (the exception was Tiny Twitter, which is up to version 2.29).
I've heard similar stories from other BlackBerry users (sometimes with clients I did install successfully and sometimes with different models). We can conclude that one important guiding principle for anyone hunting a Twitter client is: if it doesn't work, just move on to the next one. Twitter's own up-and-down network performance surely doesn't help in this respect either.
Having said that, the three that I did give a thorough going over arguably represent a good overview of the typical feature sets (and variations) found in BlackBerry Twitter clients anyway. Each does a more than adequate job, and to a large extent which you choose will depend on your preferences and work habits. All tend to use the same basic approach — an interface which by default lets you enter tweets of your own, with menu options to view your timeline, @replies, direct messages and other common Twitter features, and the ability to set an automatic refresh period for downloading new tweets.
TwitterBerry is a lean client (the only one that I comfortably installed over a GPRS connection), and fairly basic (but perfectly functional) in its features. There's no support for sending pictures or using GPS information, but if your tweeting tends towards the simply text update, omitting those features helps preserve memory and operational stability. Occasionally, TwitterBerry would lose network connectivity altogether, but a reboot usually put that right.
While its basic appearance isn't as all different from TwitterBerry, ÜberTwitter has several more advanced features, such as using your location to locate other nearby users, allowing you to immediately send pictures taken on the BlackBerry camera, and one-click retweeting. One potential downside for power and network conservers: it runs constantly in the background, unlike TwitterBerry which is more easily dismissed until you next want it.
Yatca (the name is derived from the initials of Yet Another Twitter Client) aims for serious integration with the BlackBerry. Tweets are downloaded into a messaging folder you can access via the key mail client, and the Yatca client itself exists largely to allow you to post updates and replies from here, rather than in a breakout client (it pops up most dialogs as mini-windows on top of what you're doing and shows a total of unread tweets in your mail screen).
Whether this approach is useful will depend to some extent on your own use of Twitter. If you're just following a handful of people, having them all in the inbox can be useful, and the keyboard shortcuts are consistent with the ones you already use for mail. However, if you've got a larger list, than your number of unread posts will quickly hit 99+ and you'll probably spend more time deleting them than actually reading them. Having a Yatca menu item almost literally everywhere (it even adds itself to the alarm clock) also became irritating to me after a while.
For day-to-day use, I've now settled on ÜberTwitter — it has the most consistent navigation and makes both posting and tracking easier. But it's not a slam-dunk victory by any means. I could also work happily with TwitterBerry, and I can see the appeal of Yatca for inbox junkies with fewer people to follow than I have on my own personal list.
OK, enough from me. If you want to speak up in defence of one of the software packages that crashed and burned for me or highlight why your own preferred Twitter BlackBerry client tops the chart, share your thoughts in the comments.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman will inevitably be posting a link to this article on Twitter. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.