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For the longest time, the Twitter Android app just wasn't very good. Sure it was functional, but it was clear that Twitter was focusing more on its iOS client. Third-party clients were, for that time period, the absolute best way to use Twitter on Android devices. Even though the official app has improved drastically over the past year or so, especially with the Material makeover, there are still plenty of excellent alternative clients.
Many Twitter clients have been abandoned after hitting the API token limit, and since it can be hard to keep track of which apps are still in active development, I figure a comparison might be a good idea. So without further delay, let's jump into it.
Official Twitter app
This wouldn't be a very fair comparison without factoring in the official Twitter client. Despite the vast amounts of third-party clients on the Play Store, I have always come back to this app because of push notification support. Of course, this isn't because the other developers are lazy. Twitter has intentionally crippled third-party clients for years by limiting API access, giving its client a competitive edge.
The app consists of four tabs at the top - the timeline, search/Moments, notifications, and DMs. A side panel reveals an account switcher, your lists, your Moments, a night mode switch, and a few other options. You can tap on each tab to reveal its contents, or swipe horizontally from any screen.
You can compose a tweet from the floating button on the timeline. From this screen, you can not only type out your message, but also embed multiple images, GIFs, polls, or your location. You also have the option of starting a Periscope live stream.
Like all of the clients on this list, the Twitter app has a few unique features, mostly as a result of the company not allowing other apps to access them. One is Moments, which are collections of tweets about a certain topic. Twitter itself curates a large number of Moments, usually related to recent news, on the Search tab. But anyone can create their own Moments as well, which can be helpful for multi-tweet rants and stories. Other neat features include filters for notifications, a night mode, and of course push notifications.
My complaints with the official app are relatively minor, especially since the app's Material makeover last year. By default, videos auto-play over cellular networks, which can be a costly annoyance to users not on unlimited data plans. In addition, the timeline often includes tweets that people you follow liked, which is just plain stupid. There are also ads on the timeline, which aren't a huge annoyance for me, but they might be for you.
In summary, the official Twitter client gives you access to all of the social network's features, but at the cost of ads and other minor annoyances.
Back in April, Twitter revealed a new client called Twitter Lite. Like many 'Lite' apps we are seeing from major companies, such as Facebook Lite and Skype Lite, this app is primarily designed to use less cellular data and load faster than the full application. It's also a Progressive Web App, which means it runs entirely in the browser while still acting like a native application. If you use Chrome and add Twitter Lite to your home screen, the browser UI is completely hidden.
Twitter Lite is very similar to the main Android app, both in terms of features and looks. You have the same four tabs, the same floating compose button, and so on. However, a few key features are missing. You can't upload videos, view or create Moments, or filter your notifications. You also can't use Twitter Lite with multiple accounts, which is the main reason I don't use the app more often.
Thanks to the technology of Progressive Web Apps, Twitter Lite can provide push notifications (if you enable them). Just like with native apps, notifications will continue to work even when the app is completely closed.
Twitter Lite already uses less data than the main app by default, by not auto-playing videos and GIFs, but there's also a more extreme Data saver mode as well. With this turned on, images and video only load when you tap them, and low-resolution versions of profile pictures will be loaded. Twitter Lite will even let you know how large an image or video is before you tap it.
Twitter Lite with Data saver enabled.
Twitter Lite is actually my client of choice on Chrome OS, and it works great on other desktop operating systems as well. If you open Twitter Lite in Chrome on the desktop, you can easily create a shortcut for it to make it look and feel more like a native application. If you enable push notifications, you will receive Twitter notifications as long as Chrome is running (even in the background).
If you have frequent connection problems or can't use much cellular data, Twitter Lite might just be the client for you. But if you need to use multiple accounts, you'll have to look elsewhere. It should also be noted that Twitter Lite seems to work best in Chrome.
Fenix 2 Preview
The infamous token limit has struck many Twitter clients in the past, and the original Fenix app was no exception. If you're not aware, Twitter enforces a limit on how many tokens can be authorized by a given app, and once the limit is hit, no more new users can sign into the client.
Developers have worked around this limitation by offering major updates as separate applications, which isn't against Twitter's terms of service. The developer of Fenix has been hard at work on the next major update, which is currently available as a free preview on the Play Store. Once the update is finished, it will be a paid app.
Fenix is divided into a series of columns that are user-configurable; you can add or remove columns, and move the order around. Navigation is done by swiping horizontally - there are no tabs cluttering up the screen. The app also saves your position on the timeline, so when new tweets come in, you simply scroll up to view them. A counter of new tweets is visible on the top bar, and you can tap it to scroll to the top.
The compose screen is comprised of a toggle for each account and an attach button. There are also buttons for hashtags and @ mentions, but all they do is insert the symbol (I imagine this will do more in the final release). You can't upload videos - only pictures and GIFs. Fenix also includes a GIF gallery, much like the official client.
Like many of the clients on this list, Fenix has plenty of customization options. You can choose between three layouts (compact, regular, wide), five font sizes, and two profile icon styles. There are also seven themes to choose from:
Over the course of using Fenix, I didn't really encounter any bugs or issues. The entire app is very sleek, and I'm definitely looking forward to the final release.
Talon for Twitter
Next up is Talon for Twitter, developed by none other than Klinker Apps (who also made Pulse SMS, Evolve SMS, and other apps). Like most of the clients on this list, it has a heavy focus on using Material Design properly. I really don't have any complaints with how the app looks.
One of Talon's major strengths is customization. Every complaint I had with the app's functionality (such as the top bar and FAB disappearing when scrolling up) could be changed in the settings. Just like Fenix 2 Preview, you can modify and rearrange the app's columns, which is handy for monitoring certain searches or Twitter lists.
Talon includes three base themes (light, dark, and AMOLED black), and you can set custom main/accent colors for all of them. There are a wealth of options for changing the look of tweets, from basic font/size settings to spacing and photo toggles. You can even customize how the widgets look.
From left to right: Light theme, dark theme, black theme (all with default main/accent colors)
Out of all the Twitter clients I tested for this post, Talon probably has the best compose screen. It has easy account switching (and the ability to tweet from more than one at once), a location toggle, and a GIF button to easily embed images from GIPHY. You can even schedule a tweet for a later time, or require your fingerprint to post anything.
There are also username and hashtag buttons, but the former works more like a user search (the official Twitter app prefers users that you follow, for example) and the latter doesn't seem to auto-complete at all. Still, Talon's compose screen is pretty great.
If you have an Android Wear watch, Talon has a companion app for your watch. It's not an AW 2.0 app, so it still requires Talon to be installed on your phone, but you can use it to catch up on your timeline and even send tweets with your voice. It does have some issues, like some scrolling problems and tweets occasionally not syncing, but it's there if you want it.
My only real gripe with Talon is that some common actions require multiple levels of navigation. For example, turning on the night mode (a toggle in the sidebar on the official Twitter client) requires opening the sidebar, tapping settings, and switching night mode to on. Another potential problem is that Talon only allows you to login with two Twitter accounts, presumably to not run out of tokens as quickly. This wasn't an issue for me personally, but it might be for some of you.
In short, Talon is a great Twitter client with a wealth of customization options. It's one of the best Twitter apps I've tried, but considering it has been available for almost a year and a half, I'm worried it could run out of tokens in the near future.
Twidere for Twitter
Twidere is probably the most unique client on this list, for a few reasons. First, it's free except for a few features available as in-app purchases (which I'll go over later), and open-source. Secondly, it works with more than just Twitter. You can also connect your Mastodon, StatusNet, and Fanfou accounts. I don't use any of those services, so I didn't test how well those work.
Twidere is also unique because it seems to be using multiple sets of application IDs to authenticate users. For example, the tweets I sent from Twidere are marked as "Sent from Twidere for Android #7." This was obviously done to avoid running out of authentication tokens, but I'm fairly sure this is against Twitter's Terms of Service. You also have the option of inputting your own application ID, much like the original Falcon Pro, in case you want to do that.
The interface consists of four columns (by default), a side menu to switch accounts and access settings, and a floating compose button. You can add, remove, or re-arrange the columns to your heart's content. You can swipe between the columns or use the tab bar at the top. By default, Twidere combines your timeline and notifications from all your accounts, but you can split them up into separate columns if you want.
The compose screen isn't quite as feature-packed as Talon's, but it gets the job done. You can choose what account(s) to send the tweet from by tapping the user icon. Pictures, video, GIFs, or your location can be added to tweets. Twidere also supports drafts, so you can save a tweet for later.
If you want more functionality, Twidere has a few extra features available as in-app purchases. These include data sync (you can sync app data using cloud storage), scheduling tweets with Buffer, GIPHY integration, filter list importing, and filter subscriptions. All of these can be purchased for $1.49 individually, or you can buy the 'Feature pack' for $3.99 with all of them included (as well as any future additions).
Customization is one of Twidere's strong points, but it's not quite on the same level as Talon. There are light and dark themes available, along with dozens of options for displaying and sending tweets. For example, you can switch between square and round icons, disable media previews on metered connections, and even switch back to favorites instead of likes.
Twidere's dark theme.
My main problem with Twidere is notifications. Some delay is to be expected with third-party Twitter apps, but Twidere's notifications are often delayed for several hours. I have no idea why this was happening, but it's a bit of a deal breaker. You can turn on tweet streaming, but that's obviously far more battery-hungry.
Flamingo seems to be one of the top clients around at the moment. Like many of the other apps on this list, it has a tab bar at the top to switch between columns. By default, there are tabs for the timeline, your interactions, and Direct Messages. You can change the order of the columns, as well as add new ones - including trending topics, searches, lists, favorite users, drafts, and more.
Also like many of the clients on this list, your position on the timeline is saved, and a counter at the top shows how many new tweets you haven't scrolled through. Next to the counter is a search button, which shows trending topics when you tap on it. Also on the top bar is an account switcher, in case you want to don't want to open the sidebar. Speaking of the sidebar, it contains an account switcher, a scanner for QR codes generated by the official Twitter app, tweets saved for later, and some other functionality.
The compose screen on Flamingo is pretty nice, but not quite as feature-packed as Talon's. You can choose which account(s) to send from, embed GIFs/videos/images, search for GIFs from Giphy, and tag your location. There are @ and hashtag buttons, but all they do is insert the respective symbol into the text area - there's no autocomplete or anything like that. You can also schedule tweets for later.
Flamingo has plenty of customization options, if you're not happy with how it works out of the box. There are a whopping 15 themes included, and you can even save your designs as theme files which can later be imported. There's a night mode, which unfortunately can only be enabled from the settings and not from the sidebar (like the official client). There are a wide variety of options for tweet appearance, font, text size, timeline media, transitions, and even gestures. Once you're done tweaking everything to perfection, you can even export your settings.
Overall, I didn't really find any faults with Flamingo - it's not hard to see why it's popular at the moment. Though, having the dark mode nestled in the app settings (instead of in the sidebar or another accessible location) is a bit annoying. You can find Flamingo on the Play Store for a completely respectable $1.99.
Finch for Twitter
The last app on this list is Finch for Twitter, which is free but with ads on the timeline and notification pages. Finch's interface seems to be a hybrid of Material Design and Holo, with Google Now-like cards (by default, at least) and a Material-style tab bar. I'm not a massive fan of the look, but at least it's perfectly functional.
The top bar includes a list selector (just tap your username), a search button, a filter manager, and a view switch. The switch allows you to choose between large cards and a slimmer design. Personally, I prefer the latter, even though it shows fewer controls:
Left: Card view; Right: List view
Finch's compose screen is a mixed bag. On one hand, you can't upload videos or GIFs, or tweet from multiple accounts at once. Attaching your location is also not supported. But on the other hand, there is auto-completion for usernames and hashtags, which is sorely needed on several of the other clients on this list.
Finch doesn't have quite as many customization options as Falcon or Talon, but it has all the essentials. Some of the options include a dark mode switch, accent color setting, and a font changer. Overall, Finch is probably the best free third-party Twitter client I've tried (besides the Fenix 2 Preview, which will be a paid app when completed), but there's not much competition in that area.
I'll admit, trying to pick a winner among these apps is difficult - most of them are great. All of them follow Material Design to some degree, and most have more customization options than I would ever use. Besides Twidere (due to the extreme notification delay) and Twitter Lite (due to lack of multiple account support), I would have no problem using any of these as my usual Twitter app.
Personally, I would choose Fenix 2 Preview and the official Twitter app as my favorites. Fenix 2 is very clean-looking and simple to use, but still has a wide array of customization options. The official Twitter client may not strictly adhere to Material design and displays ads, but it functionally works very well for me and has all of the social network's features.
I'm sure many of you are very opinionated about the Twitter client you use, so feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts.