If Twitter is your thing there are no shortage of apps to choose from. BlackBerry users have a smattering, with various pros and cons, but the best known is likely to be Twitterberry or Ubertwitter. Seesmic has launched its own BB app, looking to capitalise on the popularity of its desktop application, whilst others might choose to pay for a solution, such as TweetGenius, hailing from the BlackBerry scoop gurus at Boy Genius Report.
It's not surprising to see RIM launch an official Twitter app - deftly called Twitter for BlackBerry - but you can't help but wonder why it has taken so long. Ours is not to reason why, simply to have a First Look at the closed beta of the forthcoming app and let you know our thoughts.
A quick download and install, Twitter for BlackBerry has a polished look to it that some lesser applications lack. Control is based around a menu bar across the top of the screen, offering up your home timeline, @ "mentions", profile, messages, find people, search and popular topics, or "trending topics" as you might know it.
You can scroll back and forth between these different areas at your leisure, but you'll probably spend most of the time in your home timeline. Your timeline presents Tweets in your default font size and there is no way of changing it to make it larger or smaller, so the amount you see on the page will depend on your settings.
Each Tweet is accompanied buy a thumbnail image, and clicking on a Tweet will bring up more information. You'll get the app it was sent from as well as a number of details about the person who posted – number of Tweets, followers, etc, right down to bio and location, if available.
If a person has used hashtags, you can click on that tag to search it out, or click on links and other @users who have been mentioned. It will also indicate whether the Tweet was a reply to someone else and you can click through to get the history of that conversation, which is great for filling in the gaps and stringing things together.
Image previews are also available, but it will depend on the image service that the poster used, TwitPic images are previewed. Posting your own image is simple enough, with a camera icon giving you the option of using the camera or uploading an existing image.
You can also send to Twitter direct from a picture viewed through the gallery, handled more elegantly than some rivals, with a pop-up Twitter box to enter your accompanying message.
Direct messages are rather elegantly handled, integrating into your inbox and giving you the normal red star indicator. In the past we always found that an alert email would appear faster than our DM stream would refresh, so we depended on the email to keep track of direct messages. With the messages appearing in your inbox from the app, you no longer need the email alert duplicates.
If you are a heavy user of direct messages on Twitter then it is a great system and one that is certainly worth checking out when Twitter for BlackBerry comes out of closed beta. If you don't like this level of integration it can be disabled in Options.
Searching for works rather well, letting you run a keyword search which you can save, so if you want to keep track of a particular topic or brand, you can do so easily. Searching in this case returned "internal Twitter server" problems, but we'll keep trying it and see if we have any luck.
Twitter for BlackBerry will also give you the option of running a spell check before you send out a Tweet, so if you are prone to mis-keying then this will be the end of that. Again, you can elect whether to run spellcheck or not; if you use lots of abbreviations you might choose to ignore it.
Refreshing seems a little random to us. We've been using Twitter for BlackBerry for a couple of weeks now and noticed that although it is set to update every 5 minutes, it will often be out of date when we return to the application. Sometimes a "new tweets are available" message is displayed, sometimes we have new Tweets. It all seems a little random. A Refresh option lurks in the menu, so if you want to force an update you can.
Twitter for BlackBerry offers a higher level of integration than some of the rival packages do, so it fits more naturally with how we expect a BlackBerry application to behave. The spell checker and ease of adding a photo we really like and the amount of information you get on who is posting these messages is welcomed.
Occasionally it can be a little slow to navigate around things, although it doesn't collapse like Twitterberry is prone to doing when you've had no reception. Refreshing could be cleaned up, but on the whole we like BlackBerry's official application for Twitter and for those that don't want to fork out cash for their apps, it's well worth a try.