Twitter’s app for Windows Phone got the much needed facelift early last week to make it look more in tune with the platform’s Metro UI design – minimalistic and text heavy while looking uncluttered. While Windows Phone users have the option to turn to third-party apps like the reliable TweetCaster or the beautifully designed Rowi, Twitter’s own revamped app could tempt users to come back into its fold. Here’s a closer look at the app.

The start screen pin looks nice and the interface looks cleaner

The start screen pin looks nice and the interface looks cleaner

User interface
The first thing you’ll notice about the refreshed app is that it looks cleaner and loads information faster. The large chunks of text used for column headers are replaced by icons denoting Home, Mentions, Discover and Profile. Besides using the icons to switch between columns, you can swipe to your left and right to access them.

You can start tweeting right off the bat with the universal tweet button that is available from wherever in the app you are. The app lacks quick reply, favourite and RT buttons, which is a bit annoying since you need to open up every tweet in order to access these functions. Despite the fact that sister apps Twitter for Android and iOS are clearly not the best apps to tweet with if you have a smartphone, these simple, thoughtful features makes them worth a shot.

The Discover tab is possibly the most underrated in a smartphone Twitter app, and this one shows why. Surprisingly bland and devoid of images, the Discover tab only shows up the trending hashtags and “Who to Follow” besides a rather awkward “Categories” option carried forward from the desktop version of the service, which bunches people under clusters labelled as “Bollywood,” “Cricket”, “Women” and more. This feature could have been totally avoidable or at least tucked into the darker areas of the app like it is in the Android version.

Tweets with images load up real quick now, even if the app does not display it as large as you would hope it would. Attaching images too is a real breeze with Twitter for Windows Phone. A slightly annoying bit about the app’s UI is the unused black space on top with just the Twitter bird taking flight. I ended up linking another profile before realising that the place was reserved to tell you which profile you were currently using. While it’s an indispensible feature, especially if you have an official or professional account to manage, I wish Twitter would have extended the profile naming ability to single profiles on the device too. 

The app now supports custom Live Tile functionality and also shows up notifications on locked screen. Noticeably, there were delays when it came to showing up notifications when the phone was idle, with some showing up only after a manual refresh.

Lock Screen notifications are here, but bugs in the DM section are a dampner

Lock Screen notifications are here, but bugs in the DM section are a dampner

Possibly the best feature added to the Windows Phone app is the ability to pin shortcuts onto the start screen. Taking complete advantage of the pinning feature of Windows Phone, Twitter allows you to pin searches, lists or even entire profiles onto the start screen, making it easier for you to satiate your habit of looking at certain peoples’ tweets in a jiffy, without even needing to open the app.

It’s part of Twitter lore that most important discussions happen over Direct Messages on the micro-blogging site. That’s great unless you are part of that lore and use Twitter on Windows Phone. Thanks to a bug, I was unable to see what I was typing because the text box got hidden by the keyboard. The app would not pull up past DMs either, thereby confusing the living daylights out of me when I tried to hold a conversation.

I also learnt a lesson the hard way when I ended up hitting the RT button instead of the “RT manually” one. There is no way you can undo an RT. Yes, lift your jaws off the floor. How Twitter could have failed to add such a basic function is beyond my understanding.

Like a domino effect, I soon realised that if I discovered one thing wrong with the app, I discovered two more. You cannot view profile pictures using the Twitter for Windows Phone app either. Understandably, the app is still a work in progress for Twitter, but a mere facelift will just not do. It will take only a couple of days for compulsive users to realise their experience is being challenged.

When you talk about an app on one platform, you inadvertently end up drawing parallels to the same one on another operating system too. I confess to being an Android user who found Twitter on Windows Phone experience a real great one. Compared to the Android version, the app on Windows Phone is a breeze to use, doesn’t lag and uploads images before I’ve torn my hair from my scalp in anger. Of course, the app has a long, long way to go before it can even be near perfect, but it’s a start. If you can manage to look beyond the minor chinks (that Twitter will iron out in the future with further updates, hopefully), this app is worth ditching your third-party Twitter applications for. At least for a while. If you haven’t discovered third party apps on your Windows Phone for Twitter yet and have been using Twitter’s own app since long, you will love this update.

Twitter for Windows Phone is available for handsets running Windows 7 and up and you can get it from the Windows Phone Store.

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