Over the past 4 years there had been many Twitter clients created for the iPhone, Blackberry, OS X and Windows platforms. With the arrival of the Apple iPad, a new class of Twitter clients arrived. Some recycled what they had done on the iPhone; like TweetDeck, some simply recompiled their iPhone app to run on the iPad. Then there are ones like Infoxenter, a Hong Kong developer, who decides to rethink the iPad platform and tries to utilize the full dimension of the iPad's 9.7" touch screen display. Infoxenter released Twitepad [iTunes App Store link] as its attempt to create a Twitter client for the iPad. Was it successful? I will try to explain below.

Before I get in to the review of the app I want to separate the different types of Twitter users into two distinct groups:

  • users with one Twitter account and;
  • users with multiple Twitter accounts

The current version (v1.31) of Twitepad is really not designed for the latter type users, I will focus this review on the former type users.

The app starts off with two main areas: a column on the left showing the Twitter stream and a wider column on the right which serves as a built-in browser. Unfortunately, this layout is the same for both landscape and portrait orientation of the iPad. As you can imagine when the iPad is in portrait orientation the Browser column is way too narrow.

I agree that having a built-in browser is convenient for viewing links from tweets, but having it stuck in a particular column that the app does not automatically reveal is clumbersome. I am not suggesting Twitepad's developer copy what other Twitter iPad clients (TweetDeck, Twitterific, Echofon, etc.) have done. Although, these other clients' implementations for viewing link's content within a tweet by displaying the web page in a new screen that automatically occupies the width of the iPad screen, along with options to view the said page in Safari on the iPad, share it, send it via email or save to Instapaper, is much more intuitive than Twitepad's approach.

Speaking of the browser column, there are icons in the browser's toolbar that are familiar to the users of mobile Safari. The Stop, Reload and "←" ("Back") behaviours are as expected, but the behaviours of the remaining buttons on the toolbar are not.

Strangely there is a "←" ("Back") button but there is no "→" ("Forward") button. In Safari the "+" button is use to save the current web page to the browser's bookmarks list, but in Twitepad clicking on the "+" button will set the current page as Home page.

On the browser toolbar there is a Tab/Browser icon, in Safari clicking on this button will bring the user to the list of opened tab/browser windows. But in Twitepad clicking on it reviews a thumbnail of a new browser window loaded with the current web page's content. To make this function even more confusing there is an arrow icon in the footer of the browser window. When this arrow icon is clicked, it toggles between "up arrow" and "down arrow". The former will reveals the list of thumbnails showing the opened browser windows, the latter will hide the list of thumbnails. Although, this sounds logical, in practice it results in an awkward UX.

In the browser toolbar next to the URL field is a blue Bookmark icon, clicking on this icon will review the browser Bookmarks, unfortunately this is separate from the iPad's Safari Bookmarks.

The remainder icons in the browser's Footer are the "Twitter" and "Instapaper" icons. The latter saves the current web page to your Instapaper account, but there are no progress indicator so if the network connection is slow or for whatever reason Instapaper did not immediately respond, the web page will be saved multiple times into the Instapaper account. The "Twitter" icon is for when the Browser column is scrolled all the way to the left of the screen as a result hiding all the Twitter Stream columns. Clicking on this icon will slide the Browser column to the right revealing the next left column of the Twitter stream.

There is a group of app settings in the iPad's Settings app, and another group of settings can be found in the Options pane, accessible from any Twitter Stream column title's right most icon.

The set of options available are a combination of settings for the app and the column. Hidden within one of the column setting, "Account", are the settings for the Bit.ly and Instapaper credentials associated with each Twitter account.

Aside from these unusual UI decisions, the features of the Twitter Stream column are as functional as the other mentioned iPad Twitter clients above. It has the ability to Retweet tweets (both new and classic methods), replies to the tweet originator or all mentioned, DM the originator of the tweet, marks a tweet as Favorite, translates the tweet to English, and email the tweet.

Clicking on the Avatar image, the name of the tweet originator or any twitter accounts mentioned in a tweet, will bring up an information pane displaying the vital information about the tweeple who originated the tweet. Information like the tweeple's Followers, Friends, Favorites and Tweets, his bio paragraph, whether the tweeple is following the user and if the user is following the tweeple.

In this information pane the user also have the ability to Follow, Unfollow or add the tweeple to a list. With the latter function it points out the app's lack of consideration for multiple Twitter accounts. The user is only able to add the tweeple to a list from the Twitter account that is currently following the tweeple.

For each tweet that has the colorful Conversation icon, the user can click on it to bring up a pane showing the full conversation relating to the tweet in question.

The other icon you may see within a tweet is the blue "globe" icon (a better icon would be the pin, flag or Google's geo location icon), this icon indicates the tweet is geo tagged. Clicking on this blue "globe" icon will bring up a Google Map showing the geo tagged information.

Clicking the New Tweet icon on the left hand side of the Twitter Stream column title will bring up a pane presenting the user with the options to create a new tweet or send a Direct Message. The only difference is that clicking on the Direct Message option the app will automatically places a "D " at the beginning of the New Tweet pane.

In this New Tweet pane, the options are: add a photo from the iPad's photo album, toggle the geo location for the tweet, add a "@" or "#" symbol to the tweet, delete the tweet, shorten the URL and change the sender of the tweet to a different Twitter account. The icons representing the latter two functions are a bit misleading, this is just one of the examples that this app still require polish and work. One very unintuitive button is the "Bird" icon which happens to be the "send" or "post" button for the New Tweet pane.

One of the app settings in the iPad's Settings app is to set either to use one or two fingers to scroll the columns. Yes, Twitepad has the ability to have multiple Twitter Stream columns, similar to TweetDeck. Unfortunately the navigation and manipulation of the columns are not as intuitive and smooth as those used in TweetDeck. The more columns active the less efficient the app will run. Having 4 Twitter Stream and Browser columns running I found the app tend to crash frequently. In conclusion, this is a good attempt to develop a Twitter client that is different from the others. Has it taken full advantage of the iPad screen real estate to present a great user experience, I cannot say it has. I hope the developer will now focus on deliver a great user experience for each Use Case rather than adding any more functionalities.

Lastly it has recently released a free version of the app called "Twitepad One" [iTunes App Store link] for users who only has one Twitter account. I hope that the developer will give more focus on multiple Twitter accounts after it has improve the UX for each of the existing Use Cases.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad, review

I to come to aware of the iPhone/iPad app, HoloToy [iTunes link]. It is classified as Entertainment in the iTunes App Store. There are a total of ten (10) screens: Fish Tank, Scarab Attack, HoloBall, HoloBot, Cornell Box, The Impossible Triangle, Planet Earth, The Moon, Mars, Jupiter. I guess the developer will refer to these as "toys". Only two of the ten screens are games: "Scarab Attack" and "HoloBall", the rest are 3D images where the user can change the point of view by tilting the iPhone or iPad, or animate the object in some way by tapping the screen.

The developer is not asking much for the app; USD0.99 in the iTunes App Store. I do not believe even that is justified, but USD0.99 is the lowest a developer can charge form an app in the App Store other than making it free. My suggestion to the developer is to drop it to free, add some ads and focus on just one "toy". Make this toy the best he can so it is worth more than he is asking for, then introduce more toys through in-app-purchase.

With apps in the iTunes App Store being approved and rebuilt in universal iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad version, we now see a new feature in the recently upgraded iTunes 9.1.

Now all I need is an iPad to determine if these apps were simply recompiled in universal mode or actually have iPad specific functions that are only available when used on an iPad.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad

Ahead of the iPad official release on April 3rd Apple had made available the iPad Apps in the iTunes App Store.

Many sections now have a toggle switch to choose either iPhone or iPad apps. It also appears that Apple is slowly releasing the reportedly over 1000 apps, as some of the ones I was expecting like TwitePad is no where to be found; at least not easily.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad

Even before Apple makes its announcement of the iPad, critics and analysts had guesstimated what the device will do. They came up with terms like "netbook killer" and "Kindle killer" for the iPad. When Apple finally made its announcement on Jan. 28th these same people started criticizing Apple for not living up to their expectations. Is this fair?

No other company in the world can generate these kind of up roar, passion and expectations, for a product where the company in question never commented about prior to the Jan. 28th announcement. So without pre-announcing what the device will do how can Apple fails to meet these critics' expectations?

I believe with the release of the iPad, Apple had finally brought its long philosophy, for the past 24 years, of "allowing the user's to focus on the task at hand" to its true fruition. This is one of the reasons why the iPad is revolutionize. Apple has also the benefit of many different group of audiences who will be interested in using the iPad.

eBook Readers

As an eBook reader, the critics have a misnomer that reading on a LCD screen causes more eye strain than reading off an E Ink device, but in fact most eye strains are caused by poor lighting and flickering screens.

The critics expect the the iPad to kill the Kindle. By comparing the iPad to the current versions of the Kindle Amazon has in the market, I believe Apple's iPad will do just that. Admittedly, Amazon's Kindle Store may currently has more e-titles than Apple's iBookstore (30,000 titles), but we will not know for sure until the iBookstore officially launch on April 3. We cannot forget, Apple was in the same situation with iTunes Music Store when the iPod and iTunes App Store when the iPhone release respectively. Both of these online stores Apple had fewer titles than its competitors at the time of the hardware launch, but both have grown to become one of the largest if not the largest; in the case of iTunes App Store, online store in their respective category. I will expect the iBookstore to do the same.

Apple is using the same strategy that works for them with the iTunes Music Store and later iTunes Movies Store, which is to sign commitments from large content owners for the respective categories. With the launch of the iBookstore Apple tells us that five of the major book publishers has committed to publish books for the iBookstore. One of these publishers is a major education book publisher. So it is expected that education titles in iBookstore format will appear very soon.

In most cases these pending titles will be in EPUB format, but for the eBooks to stand out the publishers will have to include multimedia content, which will cause them to create versions of the titles unlike any versions on any other medium. How willing are the publishers to do that will depends on how demanding the consumers are and how each publisher distinguish their titles among other publishers.

Educators and Students

With Macmillan/McGraw-Hill education titles, they will introduce a whole new use for devices like the iPad to the education sector.

For example educators can produce lecture notes that includes interactive presentations from the actual lectures. Audio questions brought up during lecture can be included in the notes at the appropriate spots. Multimedia third party content relevant to the lecture can be referenced or embedded in the lecture notes.

Magazine and Newspaper Readers

Many magazines have announced plans to create iPad versions of their printed magazine with added functionalities that are not possible in a printed version. One such magazine publisher is Conde Nast, who announce that all their magazines will have iPad versions. They created a video showing off the WIRED iPad version.

Many newspaper publishers see the iPad as a savior for their industry. Hoping it's users will be willing to pay for a ("customized") interactive version of the iPad versions of their respective newspaper. Especially when their printed subscribers are decreasing rapidly.

Some of the newspaper publishers, like Rupert Murdoch, expects subscribers to pay more for the iPad edition than the paper printed version. Whether this is true only time will tell.

Portable Media Player

Consumers who like to view movies on the go, usually use devices from Chinese and Taiwanese manufactures capable of playing back almost any video format in existence. The largest screen size for these PMP's is usually around 7 inches, when compared to iPad's high resolution 9.7 inch LED backlit IPS screen, these PMP displays look small and low quality.

The iPad will only supports video formats compatible with QuickTime so it is not as flexible as the traditional PMP's, but the supported formats are part of the MPEG standards.

Game Platform

Although details are a bit sketchy, there are rumors involving many of the big names game title manufactures to be working on iPad versions of their more popular franchises.

When you consider a 9.7 inch touch screen with built in accelerometer, how can they resist?

Most Important Audiences

Of all the obvious target audiences, the most important group(s) are the ones who will be defined based on the application to be released on the iPad.

Most of these applications will be vertical applications, focused on specific industry and/or functions of a profession.

Imagine a Theatre Stage Manager will have an app for his stage on his iPad, allowing him to control the props and backdrops transitions during a performance. Aligning each with the coordinated appearances of performers and custom changes.

Then imagine an Auto Mechanic who will have an app on his iPad that serves as an interface to the car's computer. Through the wireless interface dongle attached to the iPad's Dock Connector, the car's computer transmits live data readings of the vehicle back to the iPad, presenting these data in various visual cues to the mechanic, while allowing him to adjust different parts of the vehicle's settings from the iPad.

Now imagine a doctor walking through a hospital ward doing his daily rounds. On his iPad is an app that interfaces with the hospital patient information repository and through the attached dongle to the iPad's Dock Connector it also retrieves live data from equipment at patient's bed sides. The doctor is able to get a quick overview of the patient's health from his iPad at the moment he reaches each patient's room.

All three of these individuals have a different use for their iPads, the iPad platform enables these specialized apps to be created and utilized on their iPad's to serve specific sets of vertical functions.

Conclusion

The things that the iPad IS NOT

  • A netbook: it does not inspire to or does it want to.
  • A notebook or more specifically a MacBook replacement: as Apple suggests the iPad sits in between the MacBook and iPhone lines

Cirtics need to stop slotting it into an existing category. It is in its own category of computing devices at the moment, I would call "Slate Computing". I imagine there will be other devices and manufactures who will be in this category soon, but at the moment Apple and the iPad sit alone.

This is why the iPad is a revolutionize device and why we cannot create an exhaustive list of Target Audiences.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad