Let’s be honest, most of the third-party Twitter clients on Android are complete crap. Outside of select few, they are slow, frequently crash, and for some clients, significant updates can take months, if they even come at all. But there is one new app that has the ability to change the stereotype of third-party Twitter clients on Android.
Released earlier this month, Tweet Lanes is by far the most beautiful Twitter app available on Android. Adhering strictly to the Android Design guidelines, Tweet Lanes interacts perfectly with Android swipe controls, and takes some liberties with Twitter’s own mechanisms, removing the ‘New Tweet’ button, and replacing it with an ever-present Context Tweet Box.
Designed for power-users, Tweet Lanes includes features like multiple-account support, and VolScroll, a brilliant feature which allows you to navigate your feed with the hardware volume buttons. While these options are great, Tweet Lanes does lack basic features like notifications and direct messaging, both of which are expected to be added within the next few weeks.
I had a chance to speak with Chris Lacy, the author and designer of Tweet Lanes about his rampant update schedule, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo’s recent statements about third-party clients, and the future of Tweet Lanes.
There are a lot of Twitter apps for Android, and most of them are sub par. What made you decide to build your own?
You hit the nail on the head in the phrasing of your question. At the end of last year I started using Twitter more and more, and my frustration with all the Twitter clients available on Android at the time began to grow and grow. Eventually it reached the point where I decided to write my own.
Unlike most Twitter clients, you have added power-user features like multi-account support and scrolling with hardware volume buttons, before including basic features like direct messaging and notifications. Was it a conscious decision to build an app for power-users first?
Honestly, I was just focused on building the app that I wanted to use myself. I rarely use direct messaging personally, and I didn’t need notifications because at the time Twitter was a bit of an echo chamber for me and other people rarely spoke to me.
But I did use multiple accounts, so it made sense to implement that early. VolScroll was an idea that I came up with at lunch one day while trying to eat and read my timeline at the same time, and given it was only 10 minutes of work to implement and was a unique feature, I put it in the initial release.
When can we expect basic features like direct messaging and notifications to become available?
The next Tweet Lanes release will be a ‘project butter’ release that improves the app’s scrolling performance, as well as a few bug fixes. It will also contain some UI tweaks so I can enable Nexus 7 support. Once that release is done, I will get straight on to direct messaging and notifications. Direct messaging is in fact 90 percent done, with the threaded conversations already displaying correctly in a lane. I just need to finish them off. I’m hoping to have that release available in the first week of August.
What was the thought process behind getting rid of the ‘New Tweet’ button, and how has the response been to the Context Tweet Box?
There were quite a few little reasons that led to my going with the Context Tweet Box instead of a New Tweet button, but the crux of it was this: I felt the standard way of covering the screen with a giant new tweet box was limiting and a little heavy, and I wanted to try something different.
Overall, I’d say the response to the Context Tweet Box has been very positive. I’ve had a few requests from people who either want to be able to hide it, or compose a tweet ‘the old fashioned way,’ but I think those are natural requests as people get adjusted to such a different UX paradigm.
VolScroll seems like a relatively simple concept. Are you surprised that no one else came up with it first? And what’s with the name?
I am a bit surprised it’s not been done before, yes. I think it makes navigating a feed much easier when using the device with one hand, especially larger devices such as a Galaxy Nexus. As far as the name is concerned, for a long time I couldn’t think of a name for this feature, but then VolScroll just popped in my head one day, and it was too simple and obvious not to use.
Twitter hasn’t been too kind recently to third-party clients, with CEO Dick Costolo stating that they want to move away from companies that “build off of Twitter, to a world where people build into Twitter.” Are you worried about Twitter limiting API access for third-party apps in the near future?
All the talk coming out of Twitter does seem very ominous for third-party clients such as Tweet Lanes, but until they announce what (if any) changes they will be making, there’s not much for me to comment on at this point. That said, given how prevalent Twitter has been in helping people rally against dictatorships and oppressive regimes around the world, I certainly hope that the company will continue to provide freedom of choice to its users when it comes to how they consume and interact with the service.
Tweet Lanes has been consistently updated at a pretty fast rate. Do you have any assistance, or are you doing all this on your own?
I’m fortunate to have an ever-growing army of users who enjoy using Tweet Lanes that constantly provides me with feature requests and messages of support, as well as helping me with beta testing. The Android Design guidelines have also provided me with much assistance along the way. As far as the actual implementation of the app is concerned, I am and have always been the sole developer.
You have made it known that some premium features will come at a price. Are you worried about the recent piracy issues with Android?
Not really. I’d rather spend my energies improving my app and engaging with users to the point where they want to pay to support Tweet Lanes rather than worrying about factors beyond my control.
Did you create Tweet Lanes as an Android-exclusive app, or do you have plans to expand in the future?
I’m a ‘never say never’ type of person, but for the foreseeable future my focus will be entirely on Android. I’ve got far too much I want to add to Tweet Lanes for Android before I even think about other platforms.
Where can people find you?
Twitter (@chrismlacy) and G+ are the best ways to keep in touch. I’ll also likely be starting a blog soon, so keep an eye out for that.