Battle App -- Echofon vs. Twitter: App of the Week

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App: Echofon Platforms: iPhone Web site: Apple Link Cost: Free ad-supported or $4.99 Pro version

App: Twitter Platforms: iPhone Web site: Apple Link Cost: Free

I'm on Twitter a lot, probably more than I should be. As a result, a lot of my time spent on Twitter is via an iPhone app. I am willing to pay for my share of apps on the iPhone and a good app for Twitter is certainly one of them, which is why I had no problem shelling out the $4.99 for Echofon Pro over a year ago.

But, recently, I've read about how well the new app built by Twitter has been received and I have tried the desktop version and like it -- though, I fully admit I prefer to use Twitter through a browser, which is why I used a combination of HootSuite and Twitter.com. Armed with this new knowledge, I decided to do a little comparison between the two and see how Twitter fared against Echofon Pro.

Interface Both apps feature a clean, easy to read interface with smooth scrolling and icons at the bottom of the window to get to items like the timeline, replies and direct messages. Twitter seems to load slightly faster and looks a little cleaner. The breaks between last login and new Tweets is more easily spotted in the Twitter interface as well. Also, the individual user view is nicer in the Twitter app. Both have highlighted background colors for replies in the timeline and, overall, both look very good on the screen, with a slight edge for the Twitter app.

Features & Functionality This is where the Twitter app starts to fall short. Both offer multi-user modes and a variety of search and settings options. Both offer autocomplete for typing user names into the timeline, though the way it is done in Echofon feels less cumbersome. The problem here is the lack of commenting for re-Tweets. Much like using Twitter.com, the Twitter app doesn't have a function for commenting on a re-Tweeted post. Echofon gives you the option of re-Tweeting with or without comment, which is extremely useful.

Twitter's menu and individual user profile screen are slightly better than Echofon, both options offering one less click. The settings options in both apps are extensive including choices of photo and video hosting services and use of push notifications, but Echofon is far superior in much of its functionality.

Usability One of the most important aspects of an app is how easy it is to use. A few of the functions I mentioned above tell part of the story, but Echofon pulls even farther ahead of Twitter when it comes to ease of use. 

Echofon displays links and hashtags inside the timeline. In the Twitter app, the only way to reach the link to a user's name, an external url or a hashtag is to click the Tweet in the timeline and click the active link from there. Echofon has them all inside the timeline not requiring the extra step.

Echofon is even more impressive with image links, displaying a thumbnail right in the timeline - multiple image links display multiple, clickable thumbnails - making it easy to click and view quickly. I also discovered that clicking images in many of the Twitter app posts generated an error despite working fine in Echofon.

These little extra bits of information seem unimportant on their own, but put together with everything else, the differences become readily apparent.

Cost Ultimately, there is no beating free. Not having multiple user accounts as an option in the free version of Echofon and having to deal with ads is an inconvenience, but if you use Twitter even a few times a week, that five-dollar investment is well worth it.

Bottom Line The Twitter app has made some substantial strides and, despite the shortcomings, it fares remarkably well against a paid, well-developed commercial app. But it will have to go quite a ways to best Echofon Pro.

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