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Twitter for iPad 5.0 takes one step forward, three steps back (hands-on video)

Twitter for iPad 5.0 takes one step forward, three steps back (hands-on video)


Twitter for iPad was finally updated to version 5.0 — but unfortunately, the update removes much of what made the app a unique and interesting experience, replacing it with what feels like a blown-up phone interface.

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Twitter for iPad 5.0
Twitter for iPad 5.0

Last December, Twitter underwent probably its biggest redesign ever, and its iPhone and Android apps followed suit. The "connect" tab, with its new "interactions" menu, was a welcome new feature, and the whole redesign a good clue into Twitter's new unified future. While the apps and website more closely mirrored functionality than ever before, the iPad app went unchanged. While the swiping, sliding, multi-pane interface of Twitter for iPad made the app a standout, it was only a matter of time before the app was updated to fit better with Twitter's new interface.

That day has finally come, as Twitter for iPad was finally updated to version 5.0 — but unfortunately, the update removes much of what made the app a unique and interesting experience. The first thing you'll notice upon opening the updated Twitter app is that it bears a striking resemblance to its iPhone and Android counterparts; the only real difference is that the four navigation buttons are along the left instead of the top or bottom. Other than that, it's a bog-standard list of tweets down the middle of the screen — and when you tap on a specific tweet, you no longer get the familiar and functional multi-column view.

Column view has been completely banished

Previously, tapping a tweet would open it in a new column that slide in from the right, while your Twitter timeline would stay in place on the left — it was an excellent use of the increased screen real estate offered by the iPad. It also intelligently displayed content contained within the tweet, as well: tapping a tweet with a URL would open that page in a new browser panel, while tapping a tweet with a hashtag search term would open a new panel with all tweets using that same hashtag. Now, column view is completely banished — users must first tap a tweet to "open" it, then tap the included links to see included content. Pictures still open automatically, but links and hashtag searches are now harder to view, and the UI for viewing them has been significantly dumbed down.

Twitter for iPad also has made it harder to get to some content — previously, all Twitter accounts logged in to the device were selectable from the left-hand navigation, as were quick links for your lists and direct messages. Now, user swapping, lists, and DMs are buried in the profile view, though search fortunately remains one tap away. Even tweet composition has been changed for the worse. Previously, a compose box would fly up while still retaining the scrollable columns you had open, but now it simply uses the built-in iOS Twitter box while obscuring whatever else you were viewing.

Twitter for iPad 5.0 screenshots


Particularly egregious is how the new app displays content in landscape mode. Rather than let users view nearly two full columns of content (a Twitter timeline and a web page, for example), Twitter for iPad now just pads the sides of your timeline with extra whitespace. There's zero added functionality here, and the app's previously innovative and unique interface is nowhere to be found.

That's not to say there aren't a few nice improvements. In particular, conversation view feels like a much more fluid experience. Tapping a tweet quickly pulls up any replies or previous tweets in a conversation, as well as a view into how many retweets or favorites that tweet has. Like before, photos are pulled up when viewing a tweet, but now they can be viewed in full-screen mode with one more tap. The profile page has also seen a facelift, with a new "banner" style image you can display behind your profile photo, and the whole design better showcases a user's recent images and tweets.

Twitter took nearly everything innovative about its app and threw it out with the bath water

Unfortunately, these few niceties can't make up for the fact that Twitter took nearly everything that was original or innovative about the app and threw it out with the bath water. This app used to be a perfect example of what was useful and unique about the iPad and its bigger screen — but now feels like little more than a blown-up iPhone app. To see Twitter crack down on the utility and feasibility of third-party options and simultaneously ruin its showcase app on the most popular tablet in the world is a hard pill to swallow.