Sunday, March 29, 2009

Top Android Social Networking Applications

Social networking applications are increasingly driving the growth of the mobile internet audience. According to a November comScore report, the European mobile social networking audience grew 152% from November 2007 to November 2008 to 12.1 million people (UK boasts the highest mobile social networking penetration at 9%. Furthermore, 33% of all mobile social networking users access social media sites exclusively.
According to the New York Times, Facebook is adding a million users per day and nearing a milestone of 200 million users.  Whereas, MySpace still dominates Facebook in the US market with 72 million monthly uniques. After 3 years, Twitter has roughly 8 mm unique US unique users according to Compete.  Twitter is a distributed service, leveraging a lot of  "instances" of  Twitter (i.e. Tweetdeck, Twirl, Tweetie, Twitterific, SMS users,...) and it is reported that more than half of its users don't even hit the main site at any given time.

Based on the aforementioned findings, I decided to focus on the top 3 social networking mobile applications available on the Android Market.  

Application Title: Twidroid   Website:
Available: Now on Android Market   Release 2.0 expected around mid-April 2009
Rating: 5  (Best social networking app on Android Market)

Twidroid is a fully featured twitter client for Android mobile phones.  The twitter client I downloaded was a Beta release (version 1.6.4). 

Features supported included:
  • Posting tweets, replies, direct messages and refreshing results
  • User profile detail information from a posted tweet
  • Option to send direct message, follow or unfollow
  • Tweet options include add/remove favourite, delete and cancel
  • Background notifications for replies and direct messages
  • Auto-layout for landscape and portrait mode
When posting a tweet, you have the option to include a picture already taken from your photo gallery or to import the picture by opening the camera through Android.  The settings allow you to select the photo hosting client (Photoid or Twitpic) and the picture quality (low, medium and high).   You can also insert your current location when posting your tweet.  As you are entering characters for posting the tweet, a character countdown in the upper left corner tracks how many characters you have left from the 140 characters limit.  As the tweet is being posted, you get a status update.  
Twidroid also includes background notifications that inform of new tweets.  From the menu, you can click on "Settings" which allow the user to set various options such as "Check for Tweets", "Check for Replies", "Check for Direct Messages", "Vibrate on Alerts", "LED Flash on Alerts", "Play ringtone on Alerts", and how often to check (default is 5 minutes). Shorter intervals may use up more battery.  Other options include "Show shortcut icon" (disabled by default), "Show complete message in notification (disabled by default), "Start at boot time" (enabled).  Whenever a tweet is posted, the URL is automatically shortened, and the URL Shortener option can be customized in "Settings".  Display options for "Use Screen Names", "Font Size", "Metric Units", "Refresh list after sending tweet" and the number of tweets to display (set to 80 by default) are customizable to suit your style.  There are various other settings for enabling SSL, Autocomplete for Contact Names, Automatic GPS, and Cache Settings.  
The only nice-to-have feature would be the ability to easily view your own profile information (i.e. followers) without having to view it from your posted tweet.

Application Title: MySpace Mobile   
Available: Now on Android Market
Rating: 3  (application UI needs more work)

MySpace application includes options to display My Profile information, Friend Requests, Friend Status and Mood, Friend Updates, Comments and Bulletins.  However, the performance was considerably slow for displaying profile information and even simple comments, or adding comments.  During an earlier attempt to post a comment, there was a "Post Comment Failed" message displayed, so when I re-entered the comment, the comment ended up being posted twice.  There were also some display issues but they cleared up once a subsequent comment was posted!
Generally, I did not find the MySpace application on the Android as compelling or cool!  Nonetheless, the application has had >250,000 downloads!

Application Title: fBook   (Updated)
Available: Now on Android Market
Rating:  3+ (no option to display older newsfeeds)

fBook application provides several of the features supported by Facebook.  Features supported include:
     1.  Home (NewsFeed, Events, Requests)
     2.  Profile (Info, Wall, Photos)
     3.  Friends (Status, Online, Photos)
fBook provides the option to either choose the "mobile" or "full" website at the bottom of the screen.  The login page did not provide an option, remember me so that the user is required to login repeatedly which can be annoying on a mobile phone.  The Settings can be invoked from the menu option.  

The Settings include options for "Storage" (clear cache), "Notification Settings" and "Message Checking Frequency" (defaulted to every 5 minutes).  There is also a "Photo Upload" option available from the menu.
The "NewsFeed" displayed only some of the stories, and there did not seem to be any option for uploading the remaining stories or any available configurable settings.
The "Profile" info displayed only basic and personal information. There was no content displayed for Education, Work, Group or Pages.  The "Wall" did not seem to show many of the posts.  The Profile Photos showed no photos.
The "Friends" options shows the friends status, friends that are online and the friends photos that have been uploaded.   The option for Status updates is not intuitive as it is hidden on the panel in the upper left corner.  There is also a Search option hidden on the same panel in the upper right corner! Clicking on the Search option allows you to search people on Facebook (cool)! But, would you expect that is how you can Add Friends by entering a name of a friend, then clicking Add Friend or Message!  You can also post a comment on your wall by clicking on Profile then selecting Wall, and touching in the comment area.  

The download site indicates that fBook is a wrapper that fixes the Facebook iPhone web app (push notifications (supported on Android only) and photo upload).  Nonetheless, it is a useful mobile application for checking your facebook status  on the road.  

Were there any social networking applications that you found compelling on the Android Market?  If so, let me know them in your comments.  If you found this article informative, please feel free to click on retweet (upper left corner) and  follow me on twitter.


Mervyn said...

Nice overview of these apps. I use both twidroid and fbook.

You can actually update facebook status by click on "status" within fbook. It brings up a small text box to change your status.

Tasneem Sayeed said...

Aha! The Status is indeed in the upper left corner, but it is easy to miss, isn't it? It would have been more intuitive if it appeared as part of the "Newsfeed" or "Stream" as the new FB refers to it.

Best Mobile said...

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