Twitter apps have never been BlackBerry’s strongest feature, but Research In Motion is trying to remedy the situation by offering an official twitter client. Twitter for BlackBerry doesn’t completely close the gap with iPhone versions of Twitter–it’s no Tweetie, but neither is anything else–but it’s a considerable step forward. (I have a couple of beta invitations, so if you’re a Windows and BlackBerry user and want to give it a try, send me an email. UPDATE: They’ve been claimed.)
My testing of the new app was delayed because no sooner had I gotten it up and running on my BlackBerry Bold 9000 than my once trusty old handset died (clicking the trackball no longer activated anything, the latest in a string of increasingly annoying issues.) It took a bit of time to buy a Bold 9700 and get the new unit up to speed.
Once I got it running, I found I mostly liked the new app. It is a lot richer than Ubertwitter, which I had been using, with some marked improvements and a couple of deficiencies. The biggest improvement is a menu bar across the top of the screen that gives access to you home screen, mentions, profile, direct messages, search, and trending topics, the last being a feature entirely missing from Ubertwitter. And there are no ads interspersed with your tweets. Unlike Ubertwitter, there’s no way to automatically add location data to a tweet, though I don’t really consider that a loss The BlackBerry client uses Twitter’s new “official” retweet function, which resends a post without letting you add comments; I prefer to retweet the old-fashioned way.
One serious annoyance is that sometimes a request to the app, a request to search or reply, for example, will lock up the handset for a minute or two. I’m hoping this is just a beta glitch and will disappear by the time the app goes live. Another beta annoyance: Installing the program has to be done from a USB link to a Windows PC and because an ActiveX control is involved, you must use Internet Explorer. These days I reflexively cringe whenever I see ActiveX and I wonder a bit what RIM was thinking. But the live app will be downloaded and installed from BlackBerry App World, so this problem should disappear.
The Twitter client integrates with BlackBerry’s core messaging service by generating a message to tell you that you have received new tweets. I receive new tweets pretty much all the time so if I have let five minutes pass since I last looked at my tweet stream, the odds are very high that something new has come in. This makes “You have tweets” notification worthless. Like Ubertwitter and the mail and Facebook apps, the Twitter icon gets a little red star when there are new items and that’s all the notification you should need. Fortunately, the mail notifications delete themselves after they are viewed so you at least don;t have the nuisance of getting rid of them.