echofon: my new desktop twitter app


For quite a long time, I have been using Echofon (formerly known as Twitterfon) on my iPhone and it was always ahead of the curve. It did pretty much everything I needed it to do (it had the first implementation of threaded twitter conversations on the iPhone, I believe), the developer was sort of responsive, and until a few months ago was ad-free and cost nothing. All good things must come to an end, and I upgraded to what was then Twitterfon Pro for a few dollars, even though there wasn’t that much additional functionality compared to the ad-supported free version. Since that time, Twitterfon was rebranded as Echofon (perhaps to stave off a potential copyright suit from Twitter?) and it’s functioned well on my iPhone.

Recently, a beta OS X desktop version of Echofon appeared that was pretty good. It was Twitter-only, so it didn’t include any additional social networks like Twitter, but the interface was very nice (quite similar to that of the iPhone app) and promised to sync with the iPhone app. I continued to use EventBox, but once that was taken over by RealMac and rebranded as Socialite, it floundered and I found myself using the Adobe AIR-based Seesmic Desktop client. Seesmic isn’t bad-it has a good deal of functionality and some nice touches, like simultaneous posting to both FB and Twitter. But the interface is, well, crap, like all AIR-based clients, and from Seesmic’s recent moves into Windows, Android and RIM, it’s clear that OS X isn’t much of a priority. So I took another look at Echofon, and it’s now my desktop Twitter client of choice.

It was just updated (but still in beta) and implemented the new but controversial RT functionality in Twitter. However, unlike Socialite, Echofon gives the user the option of using the new RT format or the previous version that allowed for editing (eg, RT @someone: your tweet here). Even better, if one chooses the new RT format, Echofon displays a preview and the user can accept or discard it. Socialite doesn’t do any of this-it just automatically retweets in the new format only, and with no ability for the user to cancel the action.

About the only Twitter functionality it seems to lack is support for Twitter lists, but for me that’s not a big loss right now, and I have no doubt it is on the horizon. I’d also love to see Facebook integration if it’s done right (both Socialite and Seesmic weren’t optimal, but Seesmic was better in many ways than Socialite with regard to Facebook); given that the developers recently released a free Echofon FB app for the iPhone that is pretty good, I suspect FB integration is also coming. This is how Seesmic started out-they had two separate apps for Twitter and FB and then merged them together.

Anyway, I can live right now without Facebook integration; it’s not like the FB site lacks complete functionality. And Echofon has Twitter trends and saved searches that get stored on Twitter.com. Echofon doesn’t have a single pane that combines tweets, replies and direct messages, which is a nice feature of Socialite and Seesmic, it does mirror the iPhone version by using a tabbed structure that is unobtrusive, functional and doesn’t make me pine for a single window format. Notifications are also so much better than the useless notifications in Seesmic. While the sync and push notification aren’t always as rapid as I’d like (I believe Echofon’s servers are updated every 10-15 minutes or thereabouts rather than pushed), it works reasonably well. And it has a very Mac-like UI that is leagues ahead of Seesmic and most other Twitter clients. It’s free for registered users of Echofon Pro on the iPhone, and hopefully will stay this way.