One of Twitter’s best features is its portability, and if you have access to a mobile phone you can visit the website directly (via your handset’s web browser) or download one of the many external applications that will replicate this feature. Certainly if you’re an iPhone user you’re particularly well-served in this department.
For many users, however, it is often easier and more convenient to link directly to a mobile version of Twitter using the browser built-into their phone handset. In this article, I’ll be comparing Twitter’s mobile client, and a rival service called Dabr, looking at the pros and cons of each.
(Note: both of these services have been specifically written to display on a mobile handset; while you can open and view the links in this article in the web browser on your PC I strongly recommend entering the URLs into your phone browser as well.)
If you have a low-powered handset or just want to have a fast and easy peek at the Twittersphere, one option you’ve always had is to point your mobile web browser at Twitter mobile.
If you visit the URL above you’ll see a cut-down version of Twitter, which is quite basic and limited in its functionality, but sufficient if all you need is a quick update. (Note, by clicking on the link above Twitter.com will default to the mobile version of the site. To return the service to its normal display, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on ‘standard’).
However, if you want to engage with the Twittersphere, the limitations are quite frustrating; you’re dealing with a small input box for your tweets, which doesn’t let you know if you’ve ran over the 140-character limit, and normally simple tasks like re-tweets, direct messages and even @ replies are quite awkward. You can set your mobile browser to use the standard version of Twitter, but this is slow and ungainly.
A far better alternative for mobile Twitterers is Dabr. It has been described as Twitter mobile ‘on steroids’.
Dabr, an open-source project created and maintained by David Carrington, delivers the speed and convenience of Twitter mobile but is feature-packed. Once you’ve logged into the site using your Twitter username and password it loads instantly and while the display is quite simplistic, and with a quick glance fairly similar to Twitter mobile, you’ll soon notice that Dabr gives the user a lot more power and control.
There are several major differences between the two clients. Check out the range of options at the top of the screen in Dabr: click on your name to view your profile; ‘home’ is your Twitter feed; ‘replies’ shows your @ replies; ‘directs’ is your direct messages; ‘search’ opens a Twitter search window (some functionality is removed because of API limitations); ‘public’ is the entire Twittersphere; ‘favourites’ is your starred tweets; ‘followers’ opens a page of all your followers; ‘friends’ is people you are following (although they’re not necessarily following you); and ‘Twitpic’ is a very convenient way to upload images to Twitpic, via Dabr.
Inside the ‘settings’ tab you’ll find various ways to tweak the client, including colour schemes as well as control over external links. More importantly, there’s a ‘mode’ feature, which allows you to configure Dabr in the way best suited to the type of phone you are using (i.e., touchscreen).
Dabr also provides you with a nicely-sized textbox to enter your tweets, and better still it will actually tell you how many characters you have left.
Let’s look at the Twitter feed itself. You’ll notice that Dabr provides you with a miniature representation of each user’s avatar, while Twitter mobile omits this completely. I don’t know about you but I often get more accustomed to user’s images – their ‘faces’ if you will – than I do their names, so I find this very useful.
Next to each user’s name (which is clickable, bringing up their profile page) are four icons: @ for replies, an envelope for direct messages, a star for favourites and quotation marks for re-tweeting, which are all extremely useful and quick to access.
For all-around ease-of-use, control and the total number of features, Dabr beats Twitter mobile hands-down. There’s really no competition at all. It loads as fast but allows the user to interact with the Twittersphere easily and with few limitations.
Twitter mobile is a pretty basic representation of the real thing – Twitter.com itself is fairly limited, especially when you become used to something like Tweetdeck – but one way in which it edges any external client is that you’re not restricted by the number of API calls you can make. Like Tweetdeck, Dabr is also limited by these restrictions from Twitter and from time to time you’re going to be faced with the ‘something broke’ message which, while frustrating, is often fixed with a refresh a moment or two later. Not a big deal, but if you’re a power-user you might find it pops up more often that you’d like. But this is something you’re going to face on all external software clients.
If you only use Twitter mobile to access the network while away from your computer (or up until now didn’t realise that was even an option), definitely give Dabr I go. I don’t think you’ll ever look back. While it may lack the GUI and user-friendliness of some of the downloadable Twitter clients (certainly on the iPhone), for the majority of Twitter users it is a convenient and very pleasing way to get your Twitter fix while on the move.
Follow @dabr for the latest updates to the service.