Social networking has grown tremendously over the past several years, from a simple way to keep in touch with friends, to a multi-billion dollar industry which helps businesses stay connected with their clients as much as it helps you see what your cousin James is doing this weekend. Seeing as there are so many social networking options to choose from now, having a single tool to manage your major accounts is extremely handy.
Many of you may already be familiar with TweetDeck, a multi-client social media application which has grown to become the largest Twitter client with 19% of the market, only behind posting via the Web at Twitter.com. One of its biggest draws, aside from the multi-client functionality, is the ability to create personalized columns of information. On the desktop version this can consist of keyword searches on Twitter, feeds of all your various social networking accounts, or even specifics like photo or wall feeds on Facebook.
It has been a long time coming, but TweetDeck for Android is finally upon us, albeit in beta form. The company affirms they have built the application from the ground up, allowing them to retain the use of columns, but changing the way they function in order to optimize their use on the mobile platform. So, does TweetDeck for Android live up to its expectations? Is it simply too early to tell with the beta release? Continue reading after the break to find out during our full review of the TweetDeck for Android beta.
First and foremost, if you would like to participate in the beta, you have to be a registered TweetDeck user in order to receive the download link via email. Visit the TweetDeck for Android beta page to register, or to sign-in with your account in order to receive the link. Now, onto business.
After you install the application, you are initially presented with the account management page to sign in with either your TweetDeck account, or with one or more individual social networking accounts. Currently, TweetDeck for Android supports Twitter, Facebook, Buzz, and Foursquare, and there is no word yet as to whether or not LinkedIn or Myspace (which is available on the desktop app) will make it into the final version. If you choose to login with your TweetDeck account, the application will automatically connect you to the clients associated with your account. It should be noted that multiple Twitter accounts are not really supported at this time, which will surely be fixed for the final release.
The differences between the desktop and Android application can be immediately seen on the new “Home” column, which combines all of your main social network feeds into one timeline, rather than splitting them up into their own unique columns. Updates from each account are separated by colored backgrounds: Twitter appears as a dark gray background, Foursquare is a light blue, Facebook, a dark blue, and Buzz is a light red. Once you familiarize yourself with the color scheme, it becomes quite simple to differentiate between your account feeds. The other two default columns are “Me” and “Direct Messages”, which combines all of your public messages and mentions, any direct Twitter messages, respectively.
Next, let’s take a look at the search function within TweetDeck for Android, which also doubles as the means for adding a Twitter search column. To make a Twitter search, simply tap the magnifying glass icon in the bottom menu navigation, and enter your query. To make this search a permanent, updating column, tap the “Add Column” button as seen in the screenshot below. Currently, the only custom columns you are able to add are these Twitter search feeds. Signing in with a TweetDeck user account failed to populate any existing columns, which is something that will hopefully be remedied in the final release.
Another exciting feature to the Android app is a “favorites list” of sorts, that enables you to select 12 contacts to be placed in a grid-like structure. Upon tapping the individual icons, you are given a summary of their profile, depending on the account they are using. For example, tapping on a Twitter user will bring up a summary of their account, whereas tapping a Facebook user will bring up their Wall.
Posting updates for single or multiple accounts is a breeze with TweetDeck for Android. You can simply select from any of the accounts you are signed-in under, and your post will be made on the accounts of your choosing. You are also given the option to add a picture, post your location, or make a quick @reply on Twitter with the “Add Contact” button. Unfortunately, adding a video is not available at this time, which is another issue that will hopefully be addressed before the final release. A steady stream of updates has been released since the launch of the beta, and is currently at build 0.9.3. A nice change that occurred with the most recent update is the ability to adjust the text size. This is an incredibly useful feature, as the default text size was a bit on the large size, especially if you have lengthy columns.
While still suffering from several flaws, the TweetDeck for Android beta certainly shows signs of becoming a major favorite among new and previous users. Whether you utilize just one, or several of the social networking accounts available to TweetDeck, there is something here for just about everyone. Some areas still need some work, including the handling of multiple Twitter accounts, an easier method for managing columns, adding videos to updates, and some overall bug squashing. For example, when testing the application’s Foursquare functionality, I was often treated to unexpected errors, crashes, and the basic inability to even log into my account. Also, as previously mentioned, signing in with your TweetDeck user account does not fully synchronize all of your columns to the phone.
Nevertheless, the application runs quite smoothly, especially considering it is a beta release. Posting updates is simple, and the overall flow of the menus and scrolling through columns is quick and responsive. It seems that taking the time to build this application from the ground up has paid off, and it is clear why TweetDeck will be incorporating the elements contained here into their iPhone and iPad versions.
For more information about how you can sign-up to take part in the open beta for TweetDeck for Android, visit the official beta site here.
[An original article by Tyler Cunningham]