Tweetbot vs Twitter – Which is Better?

I use Twitter, a lot. It’s my water cooler and my connection to the WordPress world. I’ve tried to make a break for Mastodon, and do enjoy the network, but it has been an absolute failure at replacing Twitter, particularly over the last two years as we have primarily been at home.

While I love the people on Twitter, the software available to access it has been something of a comedy of errors. On Android I had tried the native client and a handful of other clients until I wound up on Fenix which was, at best, OK. Now that I’m back in the Apple ecosystem I’ve been going back and forth between the native client and Tweetbot on each of my devices (laptop, phone and iPad).

While each app has some advantages, as of today I am back on Tweetbot for the foreseeable future and here is why.

The Timeline

Both apps have the ability to display a chronological timeline (with the native client you have to select it as it isn’t done by default). I have set it that way on each and yet Tweetbot still misses too much. Tweets aren’t grouped logically making threads hard to follow and many replies don’t show up at all on Tweetbot’s main timeline, even for people I’m following. Finally, Tweetbot often misses images and other previews forcing me to open the tweet in a browser.

Device synchronization

The native Twitter client displays individual tweets and threads better than Tweetbot but it is a complete failure at keeping my devices in sync. It isn’t uncommon for me to, for example, close my computer and pick up my iPad to continue catching up on my timeline or a list. I simply cannot do this on the native client.

It jumps to the top or back to where I left off on the device, not where I left off on the other device. On top of that the native client doesn’t load all tweets if it has been a little while.

Device synchronization, more than anything else, is why I can’t leave Tweetbot. I just can’t use Twitter without it.

Notifications

The native client can notify me of everything, instantly, on any device and does a great job at keeping those notifications in sync (if I clear them on one device it clears them everywhere).

Tweetbot only notifies me of new messages (replies, DMs, etc) and does so with a lag of a few minutes or more. If I’m on my main timeline I might’ve even seen the content there minutes before I’m notified of it and it appears in my Mentions tab. Tweetbot also does a horrible job of syncing these notifications. If I clear them on, say, my iPad, my phone will still show them hours later which can get highly confusing.

As a positive Tweetbot doesn’t even try to notify you of what I call the “vanity notifications” including likes, retweets and all the other noise that doesn’t matter. This is pretty great to me as I’m not interrupted for things I really don’t care about. You can turn off push notifications for these in the native app but they still appear within the app itself which, at least to me, is so annoying.

If I needed to rely on getting Twitter DMs in realtime Tweetbot would be a problem but, at least to date, this hasn’t been a requirement.

Other features

If you want spaces, full poll support, communities or pretty much anything else that Twitter has released in the last 5 years you’re out of luck with Tweetbot. They release everything Twitter makes available to them but that doesn’t include any of the newer features.

As I’ve found myself using communities and spaces more often in the WordPress community I’ve found this rather annoying. In fact, it is this lack of features combined with the better display of individual tweets that had me wanting to try the native client again in the first place.

Ads and Privacy

Tweetbot has no ads and is clear it doesn’t collect data on you itself, other than for its own subscription.

While I do enjoy not seeing the worthless ads I have yet to find any proof that its privacy policies really make a difference on a platform that collects everything you submit anyway. If Tweetbot really could be better on privacy this would be an easy decision and I wouldn’t give the native client a second look but no one, at least so far, can say for certain if that’s the case.

If I send a tweet, like a post or follow and account (or do anything else on the platform) Twitter, the company, still knows this. I don’t see how, given the nature of using Twitter in general, a third-party client like Tweetbot could therefore be better for your privacy as long as it doesn’t collect your data itself.

Price

Finally, there’s the price of the clients. The native client is free as Twitter makes its money from the data it collects from you. Tweetbot, on the other hand, is $5.99/year as you’re supporting a smaller dev shop which has been incredibly responsive to their users and changes in the Twitter APIs as they have been made available.

For me the choice on price, especially at such a relatively low price point is an easy one.

Twitter, the service, has Twitter Blue available. For $2.99/month it offers a limited set of features such as un-sending a tweet and a few others. If they were to make this available with extra API features for apps like Tweetbot I would gladly pay for it. Until then, however, I don’t consider it the same type of price to pay as they’re not charging for the app itself.

So which app is better?

If you’ve made it this far you already know I’m sticking with Tweetbot, at least for now. While my use case is undoubtably different than most, the synchronization of timelines between devices combined with the limited notifications make it very worth it to me. That said, each app has its advantages and either one will make sure you can post all the content you could ever want.

5 Comments

  1. Tweetbot really is a fantastic app. It got a bit stagnant but in the last year TapBots kicked things into gear, switched to a subscription, and started embracing the new Twitter API. I’m hopeful that Twitter continues to provide a solid API for third parties and Tweetbot keeps going strong.

    As to privacy, the key thing is in your statement “as long as it doesn’t collect your data itself” – plenty of apps out there harvesting data and selling it to third parties. But you’re right… as to your activity on Twitter itself? Yeah, Twitter’s going to know what you’re up to.

  2. The reason I can’t leave Tweetbot is all the filters I have sept to clean up the stuff I never want to see on Twitter. When they released their update earlier this year I tried no filters…dang Twitter sucks that way.

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