05
Feb
unnamed

Carbon has had a long and tumultuous journey on its way to the Google Play Store. It was a headlining app on the now-defunct webOS. After that it enjoyed a brief stint on Windows Phone before the developers rage-quit the Microsoft ecosystem. So here we are many months later and Carbon is finally tweeting from an Android phone near you. Was it worth the wait? Can it unseat the reigning champions of Twitter? Let's find out.

Features

Twitter apps on Android have gotten very mature in the last few years. You can't just throw out any old thing and expect people to use it – you've got to have the big features. Carbon has some of those features.

One of the first things I look for in a Twitter client is how it handles in-line images and links. Carbon does a good job of loading images in the stream; tapping on them brings up a full preview that you can zoom in on. Links are a different matter, as there is no built-in browser. If you open a link, you will be dumped out to your main browser. Compare this with Falcon Pro, which has a killer Instapaper-infused browser, and Carbon is already behind the times.

2013-02-03 14.46.20 2013-02-03 14.55.23 2013-02-04 17.51.09

As for notifications, there's both good and bad. I've found the notifications for tweets and direct messages to be very reliable. However, you can't change the frequency of refreshes. It's 15 minutes or nothing. This is a pull update – not push. I can't so much fault Carbon for this seeing as most other clients (like Falcon Pro) don't even utilize push updates. What I'm a little less forgiving of is that the refresh is only pulling the notification. When you open the app, you still have to manually refresh it every single time.

In this initial release, Carbon has no widget. I'm pretty bummed about that, honestly. I suppose you can use the Falcon widget, but that's not ideal because Carbon doesn't register itself as a handler of Twitter links. Thus, the app shortcut on Falcon doesn't work.

In general, there are a lot of settings missing from Carbon. The app does photo uploads and URL shortening automatically, but you can't control what service it uses. This isn't a huge deal, but something to consider. Some other things I'm missing from the settings include custom notification sounds, mutes, and the option to display real names in the stream. Oh, and no tablet support. For reference, Falcon Pro has almost all of this.

The one feature I know a lot of folks will be ecstatic over is multiple account support. Most devs are shying away from supporting more than one account so as to not use up their limited supply of Twitter auth tokens. Carbon's got you covered, though.

Interface

I feel like Carbon could have looked great. It has the makings of something slick and smart, but the longer I use it the more I think the design falls flat. The ideas here aren't bad – the UI is based around your three columns (timeline, mentions, and DMs) as floating panels. You can swipe back and forth, and the app mimics the Android home screen tilting effect when you get the the left or right edge. This is nice and subtle.

Carbon does the pull-down refresh trick, but that's where things go wrong. The entire panel tilts way off axis and a little 'refresh' tile flips around at the top of the screen. As if that wasn't enough, the number of new tweets spins around at the top after the refresh has finished. All these animations are incredibly distracting and unnecessary.

2013-02-03 22.44.50 2013-02-03 15.11.54 2013-02-05 17.17.38

Loading up a user profile is... weird. It's split into two columns with the bio, name, and stats in the large left panel. Then the tiny sliver of a right panel has the avatar, following status, and some buttons. Frankly, this UI isn't working. It looks broken – like something failed to render properly.

I will say this for Carbon: the scrolling is very smooth. Falcon Pro is famous for buttery smooth scrolling, and Carbon is right up there. You can long-press on a tweet to get options for retweeting, replying, and so on. This interface pulls the tweet forward just a little and dims everything else. I actually like this very much. It's understated and elegant. Something I'm not so fond of is the way Carbon pulls up conversations. Like other clients, Carbon lists replies below a selected tweet. However, things get weird when you drag up the replies. The selected tweet twists and stays at a bizarre 45-degree angle as the replies are overlaid on it. It looks awful.

2013-02-03 14.50.23 2013-02-03 23.14.16 2013-02-04 18.02.43

Through all of this I was not able to get over the wood grain background. Really? Wood grain? It just feels so out of place. Removing that would go a long way toward making the app look nicer. Carbon is just trying too hard to be flashy when it has all the pieces needed to be a good minimalist app. It's like Carbon is begging for attention. "ZOMG, look at me. Look at how smooth this animation is. Now look at this one, and this one. Hey, wood grain is cool, right?"

Conclusion

I don't want to give you the impression that using Carbon will give you cancer (these statements not evaluated by a doctor). It works, but I don't think that it's particularly good at anything. The way it refreshes in the background is poor, it relies too heavily on flashy animations, and is missing some basic features. This doesn't feel like a final release. It's beta at best.

Granted, Carbon is snappy and the basic UI conventions are good. It has multiple account support, which is missing even from Falcon Pro. The only reason I can think of that you'd want to use it over something like Falcon Pro or Plume is that Carbon is free and has no ads. Still, Falcon Pro is just $0.99 and it's a much better experience. Carbon could be great someday with some work, but today is not that day.

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    I reached a similar conclusion, and with the rate both developers develop at (lightning fast vs holy crap slow), Falcon is probably going to be the leader for a while.

    • http://www.facebook.com/rmkattan Rami Kattan

      Falcon Pro will become my #1 only when it starts supporting multiple accounts...

      • Eric

        Agreed! The only thing holding back Falcon is the multiple account support. Once that happens it'll destroy Carbon completely.

    • http://www.twitter.com/darrylcobb maxrobes2000

      Same sentiment. Once Multiple accounts are a go, Falcon will rule them all.

  • http://areyouanandroid.com/ Anthony Farrior

    Ding...

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

    I use the official Twitter client and am 98% happy with it. Then again, I am also using devices running 4.1+, and with only one Twitter account. So that makes a bit of a difference. Falcon looks nice, but without push notifications, I'm just not interested. The official Twitter app has a great conversation UI, is very fast (on newer phones), and is absolutely reliable.

    My needs may not be as niche as most people who read AP, though.

    • Nicolás Rezzano

      Falcon has push notifications! But i'm same as you. I tried so many Twitter clients but i always end up with the official one. I am in Falcon now, maybe i'll stick with it, hopefully

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

        Mmm, no it doesn't. They're on a refresh timer if you're not actually in the app.

        • Nicolás Rezzano

          Well, i have the app, and i have push notifications when i'm not on it. I compared with twitter, it's really instant, no delay. I just enabled it on settings... Real Time ones. Maybe i'm wrong, forget me if i am.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

            Then it's using a very crude and inefficient system, as Twitter has locked out any true push notifications in 3rd party apps.

          • Nicolás Rezzano

            Well, that is really... weird. I thought Twitter didn't lock it, but it's not letting new apps to have it... Maybe Falcon does. I get push notifications really good. Only on wifi thou

          • Dan

            "push notifications" I don't think that means what you think it means.

          • Nicolás Rezzano

            Well, says real time notifications, but they act just like push notifications, i see no difference more than the names

          • http://fnords.org/ Markoff Chaney

            Your battery sees a difference.

          • Nicolás Rezzano

            Not really no :/

          • http://fnords.org/ Markoff Chaney

            How would you know that when you don't even know what they are?

          • Nicolás Rezzano

            Well, i know those are Realtime notifications, therefore they consume more battery because the app runs all the time, but it doesn't consume a lot of battery, just try for yourself. Don't treat me like i'm dumb my friend,

          • http://fnords.org/ Markoff Chaney

            You should probably Google "push notifications" to save yourself further embarrassment.

          • Nicolás Rezzano

            Let's just end it here ^^

    • http://twitter.com/GiuntaRob Roberto Giunta

      What I always do: I leave the official Twitter client installed, get push-notifications through it and then use my other Twitter client of choice to interact with Twitter in general.

      AFAIK push-notifications will get harder to accomplish with the newer 1.1 API and besides, they were never really that popular in Android. The devil knows why only 2 or 3 clients on Android have push. I can remember at least 3 or 4 clients on iOS that had push-notifications when I was on 3GS back then.

  • http://www.AndroidAllies.com/ Max M.

    I'm pretty butthurt that I could download it on my N7, but it won't work. I understand it doesn't have a tablet layout, but let me use it with a stretched out phone IU until the tablet UI is done. Or don't let me download it on my N7.

  • http://www.buttie.pl/ buttie

    Real push notifications are impossible in third party apps, because Twitter limited it to only official app. There are workarounds of course, but they usually harvest a lot of bandwith and drains battery. So obviously it cannot be taken against Carbon.
    I have however other problem with this app, it seems to be using Twitter api 1.0, which isn't very wise for such a young client, since this api will be obsolete in less than a month. And then this hip way of showing replays will become useless.

  • http://twitter.com/mimrixmike Frettfreak

    I am 100% in agreement. After everyone made this app sound like it was the second coming my expectations were pretty high and this was a HUGE disappointment. No scrollable widget is a deal breaker for me right off the bat but beyond that it's pretty crappy. Good review. I am glad to see u guys aren't just kissing the devs ass.

  • http://twitter.com/1conography Jared Cobb

    This review is actually almost the complete opposite of how I feel about the app. I've been using it since I first learned that it came out on the store yesterday, and I love the UI, especially with how the timeline pivots and it tells me how many new tweets I have. Also, the two finger scroll is handy, at times. The app doesn't do everything I might want, but for an everyday app this is the best one I've used so far. Everyone has different tastes and for me, everything this reviewer doesn't like is what I do like.

  • Nicolás Rezzano

    I believe that is has potential, but first time i used it, i thought it was Alpha, not even beta. 100% agreed with your review, a very good one!

  • http://twitter.com/SuperDeBo_XL Jeremy DeBose

    I side loaded to my Nexus 7 and it looks nice. Just like it does on my phone. But it's definitely got a long way to go. Even though it was in development for a couple lifetimes, it feels rushed somehow.

    • http://twitter.com/PopeTackler Rob

      What do you mean, you side-loaded it on to your Nexus 7? It installs fine from the market onto the Nexus 7, but whenever I open Carbon it tells me it's not compatible with tablets. Does it not check your device every time it opens?

      That's really odd.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        I think there is a version floating around that's hacked to run on tablets.

  • http://andrewchamp.com/ Andrew Champ

    I love it. It's design is awesome.

    • Eric

      That's all it is, eye candy. I can get eye candy while I walk home from work.

  • hararilmi

    there's nothing wrong with the timeline refreshing animation, IMHO it's just cool...

    I used to utilize twicca, but then Carbon fills the gap...
    push notifications? just use echofon instead :)

    i've got no problems with non-auto refresh timeline, since I spent most of my time on twitter with my notebook
    :P

  • AllPurposeRadio

    Review is pretty much spot on. I think is definitely a case of overhype though. The spinning number during refesh would be nice if you could tap it to go to the beginning of the timeline and 2 finger swipe to refresh seems clunky compared to a simple tap. Also the tilt when you pull up the conversation is supremely ugly...I swear I thought it was a glitch when I first started using it.

  • selonmoi

    I 100% disagree with this review. Carbon doesn't have all the features I'd like to see, but I think it's already the best Twitter client on Android. Seriously.

    The first thing *I* look for in a Twitter client is an ability to let me read all the tweets in my stream, in order. And that has kept me looking for a Twitter client, endlessly, until Carbon finally came along. I've tried so many and none of them, including the official Twitter app, do this successfully.

    If I get too far behind and I look at Twitter the wrong way (seriously, it happens so randomly!), bam!, I'm dumped to the top of my stream. Or if I get the dreaded "Tap to load more tweets" message, it places me at the top, not the bottom, of all those unread tweets.

    Carbon has neither of these faults. It holds my place in the stream, rock solid. And, if for no other reason than that, it has already become my daily driver.

    A couple of features I would like to see added:

    1. The main stream should update at the same time as it checks for notifications. Having to always manually update is a bit of an annoyance.

    2. The age of tweets that's displayed should update continuously, too. They don't even need to contact Twitter for this, just recalculate periodically.

    Still, even at this stage, I think it's head and shoulders above the rest. The UI is fantastic. The refresh animation looks great, and showing the number of new tweets is useful, too.

    Finally, I don't understand why people think Falcon Pro looks so good. Just the font is enough to hurt my eyes.

  • http://4LadyDi.blogpsot.com/ Lady Di

    I'm using the dinosaur of twitter apps, the dark version of TweetDeck. Once Twitter touch it, it never looked quite right but it has everything I need so far. I tested Carbon all of 4 minutes and less. I was put off by the vibration which I saw no option to disable, the scary splash screen #1 and the mere existence of a #2. I did not see the wood effect but maybe I left too fast. You are right AP with the many things you said but, I do like the aesthetics of it. I like glossy, shiny, pretty and yes dark.

    I need for some more work to be done as it felt like an Alpha almost Beta offereing more than anything. I want them to change that icon, create a widget and clean up a lot you mentioned before I let go of T-Rex, I mean... TweetDark

  • http://9mm.nu/ Taylor

    Ha! Screenshot fame. I've been using Carbon for a bit with my biggest gripe is that fail it crashes every time I load it. It might just be CM10.1but still.

  • Mike

    I really love Falcon Pro, I just wish it had push notifications. That's all I ask for.

    (And possibly the ability to see who favorited/retweeted your tweets?)

    • http://twitter.com/uksceptic Martin

      It does the latter. Swipe right, select Retweets. You'll see a list of all your tweets that have been RTed. Click the grey header and a dropdown will appear listing all the people that RTed your tweet.

  • patapongirl

    Does anyone know how to adjust the frequency of Carbon fetching new tweets?

    Anyway, I love Plume more.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I don't think you can yet.

  • http://twitter.com/physch physch gretchen

    Without multi-account support, falcon pro can be as good as possible and is still useless for many many twitter users. No option for me, unfortunately. And it startet out a lot buggier than this app, right? I'm not giving Carbon up right from the start. Let's see, how quick they add the missing settings and features. I think for a first impression the app doesn't look all bad. They just need to stay positive, take your critics and transform them into features :)

    • Eric

      Falcon wasn't in production for over a year. Everyone expected so much better for Carbon for as long as they've been promising an actual "release".

  • Julio M

    Opinions everywhere.

  • http://twitter.com/PopeTackler Rob

    That's all Carbon is at the moment: style over substance. But people freaking love pretty animations more than features.

  • http://fpgeeks.com/ Dan Smith

    This review is the biggest pile of shit I've ever seen. I had to double check to make sure I wasn't at Android Central.

    You Forgot The Beta Tag

    Ryan, do you know what a beta is? Nothing about this app made me think it should be called a beta. It's definitely low on features compared to many other Twitter clients out there but the app runs smooth and functions exceptionally well.

    ...there is no built-in browser.

    This is not a bad thing. I actually prefer this and when apps give you a choice I always have an external browser handle the links. I know I'm not the only one who's spent hours picking their perfect browser, so why would I want a featureless built in browser to handle links? To save me a few milliseconds when opening links? No thanks.

    Carbon does the pull-down refresh trick, but that's where things go wrong...All these animations are incredibly distracting and unnecessary.

    Distracting and unnecessary? How so? When you're done reading new tweets and looking for more, what are you being distracted from? Nearly every Twitter app has a refresh animation. Carbon just takes it to another level.

    Something I'm not so fond of is the way Carbon pulls up conversations...The selected tweet twists and stays at a bizarre 45-degree angle as the replies are overlaid on it. It looks awful.

    I disagree 100%. Carbon actually puts a nice spin on the conversation display. Most apps just show the selected tweet at the top with the conversation below it. Carbon adds a nice animation and since the selected tweet is shown in the conversation below, you're not losing any information.

    • selonmoi

      You're spot on about the beta thing. Boid beta had to reload everything every time you switched views (and sadly, it never got beyond that point). And the much beloved Falcon Pro with its much beloved inline browser? When they first introduced it, it crashed the app every time I tried to use it. And that wasn't beta, that was in a release.

      • Eric

        Falcon has gotten were it's at in a matter of like two weeks! The dev worked tirelessly to make that app as great as it is. Carbon has been hyping everyone for OVER a year and the garbage they put out is the work they've done in all that time? If you've followed the hype I'm sure you've seen the Android app preview video that circulated a year ago so they had something coded up.

  • Seth

    The background is not wood grain. It's fcking charcoal, a carbon!

  • http://www.facebook.com/yachtcharter Richard Whiley

    Is this app safe in terms of Twitter token limits? I don't want to start using a new app and ending up being abandoned by the dev Team after they run out of Twitter tokens soon. They may be able to use the tokens they had from their WebOS version until Twitter will find out and yell "foul!" for violating the new terms of service and restrict/ban them. I hope Twitter will will return back to a more open API policy so that we can see more innovation in that space.

  • Inacio

    I tested Carbon after some friends were freaking out telling me it was the best thing to happen ever, and boy am I disappointed.

    I agree with you completely, I feel like it's just trying to be super flashy and edgy.

    I still stick with Plume, even after trying Falcon Pro. Plume just feels like the most practical client for me.

    • http://rawdmg.bandcamp.com Inacio

      I tried Falcon right as it moved out from XDA to the Play Store, though, and people say it's better now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/miki.gavette Miki Gavette

    design rocks!
    _____________________
    http://www.dvdvideosoft.com