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iPhone App Review: Twitterrific exercises your EDGE connection and your patience

TwitterificSlick UI seems to be the norm for most 'big name' iPhone applications on the AppStore. Twitterrific easily gets the top spot in terms of having attractive UI and navigation. However, UI and usability are not synonymous. When I use my phone, I want to accomplish what I want to do quickly and easily. Unfortunately Twitterrific falls short in a few area which makes it one of the most frustrating apps to use on the iPhone.

Until recently, the only way for developers to test an iPhone application was to use the simulator. While it does a great job in allowing developers to see and interact with the app as they develop it, it doesn't show how the app performs in real-life situation.

There are two major differences between the simulator and the real iPhone that are at play here. One is the computer speed and the other internet connection speed. Even the slowest MacBook Air runs faster than the iPhone and thus any performance issue would be masked. Likewise with internet connection, there is no straightforward way to simulate the speed and latency of a EDGE connection and therefore any deficiency of the code in the app would not be exposed until the developers try it out on the real iPhone with spotty EDGE connection.

Twitterrific suffers from both of these problems. The scrolling performance of the message list is so jerky and slow that initially I thought there was something wrong with my iPhone. As I waited patiently for the list to scroll up and down, I also noticed that Twitterrific loads and re-loads every single user picture, even if it has previously been loaded. I stared at my iPhone in dis-belief because I could not comprehend how any sane developers would be as inefficient as that. My hunch that the reloading issue is tied to connection speed was confirmed last night when I got home and connected to the net via wi-fi. Both scrolling and picture reloading sped up because of the much faster connection I have at home.

If you think I am picking on Twitterrific, I am not. Another application that I was looking forward to using is NetNewsWire. Similar to Twitterrific, its usability suffers from its incessant needs to connect to the net and refresh the feeds' content. This renders the application unresponsive for a few seconds every time I go back to the main feeds screen.

The only application I've tried so far that lives up to my expectation is Facebook. The iPhone version is almost a replication of the iPhone web app. The bare, utilitarian look makes it looks boring in comparison against Twitterific. But where it shines is the responsiveness. It is faster when I am browsing around, slow when it is fetching data over the net. But I expect that. There is no constant reloading of my friends' pictures and scrolling the list is as fast as any built-in apps.

Iconfactory knows about the issue I mentioned and I hope the application update mechanism provided by the AppStore would translate to frequent updates for us, the customer.

Tags: appstore, edge, facebook, iphone, iphone2.0, Netnewswire, twitterrific