How Apple Made Twitter The Poster Child Of Android’s Tablet Failure

Seemingly taking no chances, Apple didn’t just announce cool features in the new iPad. It also took at dig at Android tablets, to show how the iPad is better than they are. Called on behalf of the prosecution: Twitter. Evidence? Twitter’s iPad app is beautiful to use, while Twitter offers no similar Android app. It’s a true weakness, and it’s not just Twitter. Even Google’s own Google+ app could be called to testify against Android.

Cook: Twitter Is Better On The iPad

The testimony happened around 21:50 into the presentation, which you can watch here. Apple CEO Tim Cook shows the Twitter app for Android running on a Samsung tablet:

“You can see it’s pretty basic. It kind of looks like a blown-up smartphone app. That’s because it’s exactly what it is,” Cook says. He then goes on to talk about the Twitter app:

Cook explains how you can see more about tweets, photos and videos that are mentioned. He then goes on to talk about similar issues with the Yelp app for the iPad, saying it’s better because it’s designed to take advantage of the larger space a tablet allows, unlike the Yelp app for Android.

“This is a key reason why momentum on iPad continues to build and the competitive tablets aren’t gaining traction,” Cook said, before moving on.

True: Twitter On Android Tablets Sucks

Cook is absolutely right in terms of Twitter. I’m a regular Twitter user on the iPad. It’s a glorious experience. I can easily find more about someone when viewing their tweet:

In contrast, doing the same thing using the Android app (on a Asus Transformer Prime running Android 4) is a sad, empty experience:

If I select a story with a photo or a link, I’m shown that photo or what’s being linked to within the Twitter app, on the iPad:

In contrast, the Twitter app for Android gives that same, empty experience I’ve mentioned:

I use my iPad much more than my Android tablet, and this is part of the reason. Many of the iPad apps I use are designed to be used on a tablet. Many of the Android apps I use waste that tablet space and experience.

What’s Up, Twitter?

Of course, some of the blame is with Twitter and other companies. If Twitter wanted to, it could provide a better tablet experience for Android. But so far, it hasn’t. Why not? Twitter spokesperson Carolyn Penner told me:

As you know, Android is an important platform for us.

We’re happy with the the growth we’ve seen in terms of users and usage, and we’re going to continue invest in it. In terms of building a tablet app, it’s something we’ll keep an eye on. We don’t have anything to share right now though.

Don’t hold your breath.

One reason for the delay might be that Twitter got more integrated into Apple’s iOS mobile operating system last year, and part of having that favored status might be that you don’t do favors for Google.

Twitter’s also been pretty much on the outs with Google over the failure to renew a content deal last year and the favoritism it feels Google started giving Google+ over Twitter in Search Plus Your World earlier this year. Potentially, that further disincentivizes Twitter from wanting to do much for Android.

Does Going “All In” On Apple Payoff?

Instagram offers another example of why ignoring Android might be worthwhile, for some. The world’s largest “mobile-only” social network, the headlines said last week, estimating it has 25 million users. But world’s largest iOS-only social network might have been more accurate. Because if you’re not using an iOS device like the iPhone or the iPad, you’re not going to be Instagramming.

Instagram is going on two years old, and still no Android app? If I recall correctly, Apple’s lavished plenty of love on Instagram over the past year. I’m pretty sure it’s been featured both within the app store and within Apple commercials. Apple’s staff named it the best iPhone app for 2011.

If you’re Instagram, do you risk losing potential Apple love by rolling out an Android app? Or do you stay iOS only? Surely, that’s a factor.

Dear App Makers: We Are Android Users, Hear Us Roar

Of course, there’s a risk to app makers, by ignoring Android. Pick your survey, and there are more Android smartphone users reported these days than iPhone users. One out this week has Android’s share of smartphone users in the US at 49% to Apple’s 30%.

While my main tablet is the iPad, my main phone is Android (I also own an iPhone 4S). If the new hot “who’s nearby” app Highlight wants to be iPhone-only, that’s a lot of people it’s missing out on. It also means I’m far more inclined to use that other new hot “who’s nearby” app, Banjo. Banjo is biplatformial. It’s for iOS and Android.

As for Twitter, I don’t tend to blame Android when it looks so crappy on my Android tablet. I blame Twitter and wonder why they’re being so lame. I’ve also talked to a couple of developers who, because everyone they know uses the iPhone, dismiss Android despite the many stats that show usage out there. That’s lame, too.

But Developing For Android Is Harder

But it’s not all down to lameness, nor trying to curry favor with Apple. It’s also because, as Apple has said many times, Android is fragmented. It’s not standard. You can’t just develop an “Android” app. You have to think about the literally hundreds of different Android devices out there, which even Google can’t keep track of.

I got an up-close-and-personal wake-up call about this when going through a mobile app development process recently. I wanted a mobile app, and I damn well wanted it to work on both the iPhone and Android. The developer said sure, we can do Android. But which phones should it be “awesome” on, because there are a variety of resolutions and screen sizes.

Oh. Yeah. I should know that, because I’ve got three different Android phones sitting on my desk right now, along with my Android tablet, and the screen sizes and resolutions are indeed all different.

That’s a challenge Google really needs to figure out. Perhaps it’s finally time for it to dictate some preferred standards for Android devices in terms of hardware, similar to how Google has been trying to promote design standards for Android 4.

Google’s Own Apps Should Lead The Way

At the very least, Google itself could lead the pack in supporting Android tablets. Behold, the glory of Google+ on my Android tablet:

If Google itself can’t come up with a better experience for its own social network on the latest version of its own mobile operating system, why should any other company be going above and beyond?

Related Articles


Related Topics: Apple: iOS | Apple: iPhone | Channel: Mobile Marketing | Google: Android | Top News | Twitter: Mobile


About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Anonymous

    These analyses are always so skewed. Tim Cook will talk about how Twitter on iPad OS is better because it’s his perfect Freudian example. He won’t show you any apps that use barometers because there aren’t any, because the iPad doesn’t have one of those sensors – no bother that even some Android phones have a barometer, and therefore devs are building apps to take advantage of that data. I mean, sure, “ours is better” when you’re choosing what is scrutinized. But consumers who actually “think different” aren’t just told what is better and believe it; they know there is always an alternative, that’s the point of thinking different.

    As for “fragmentation”, Apple will never mention that their forthcoming 10.8 OS won’t work on a handful (as in, many) of their machines, including the 2006 & 2007 Mac Pro lines, their top-of-the-line workstation machines won’t even run their forthcoming OS. But they never criticize their own fragmentation woes, they just say “upgrade”. So whatever.

  • Anonymous

    Sure sometimes apps can make navigating web based resources less painful. But are you going to install a dedicated app for every one one of those resources ? NO you’d need hundreds of apps! We have one app that handles all these resources just fine its called a web browser! And on a tablet In many cases I have my browser set to “desktop“ “full site“ or whatever jargon they use that gives you a richer standard desktop experience. The point that was made about development is moot. All a resource needs is a great standards based site. The twitter site in standard mode on my android tablet looks and functions much the same as your iPad app the g+ website is another example and I didn’t have to install anything extra! You should admit to being a bit disingenuous because many of the screen caps used here you drilled down a page or two to the most barren page you could find to prove your point.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Nick, I never need to use a barometer on either the iPad (if it had one) or Android. I need to use Twitter and Google+ all the time. Twitter’s also a very popular usage on the iPad. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to wish these apps were better. As for fragmentation, if the fact a five-year-old Mac won’t run the latest OS is the problem, I think they’re OK given that I’ve got a brand new Android phone that still not upgraded to Android 4 (the Galaxy S II Skyrocket), and the Droid Charge that I swamped out for the Galaxy Nexus — well, good thing I did. Because that phone apparently will never get the Android 4 upgrade.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Mattviator, you make a good point about the web browser. Ideally, that is the way forward. But no, the Twitter site doesn’t look at all like the iPad app renders it. For one thing, the browser is extremely sluggish when using Twitter. I remember this being a problem with the Galaxy Tab 10 in the middle of last year. That’s one reason I really haven’t been back to even thinking about it.

    Looking just now, it’s still the case with the even faster Transformer Prime. Speedwise, doing things in the iPad versus Android using the browser, the browser is left in the dust.
    Aside from that Twitter in the browser doesn’t open a new pane to preview content in the way the iPad does. Actually, the Twitter site used to do this, and I really miss it even on my desktop. But the experience is simply not the same on the iPad, which is excellent.As for Google+, using it via the browser was downright impossible, if I recall correctly, when it first released. Believe me, I tried, as I documented here: As with Twitter, that’s one reason why I haven’t thought to go back. I was pleasantly surprised to find that logging in and changing to the desktop view works much better than I remember it. It’s not as sluggish as Twitter, but it does seem to flicker in some weird ways that make me nervous. But still, I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

    And no, I didn’t try to pick out something to make the Android tablet look especially bad versus the iPad. Those are two standard things that I do, view a tweet or view a tweet with an article. The Android apps for Twitter and Google+ look empty and bad because they doen’t use all the available space well. They are bad. Sorry.

    If anything, the Twitter app is even worse in that the “drill down” you’re worried about is because it has no concept of overlapping panes, as happens with the iPad. Want to read more about a tweet? Click, you get a new window.

    Do you actually have both an iPad and and Android tablet? I get the impression you only use Android and if so, are perhaps defensive about it. My post isn’t designed to make you or any Android owner somehow feel bad. It’s actually to say that Android apps could be better for the millions of Android users (which I am) who use these devices. In particular, that means Google could do more.

  • Arpit Singhi

    Dear nicknormal, its not just about barometer. What matters is what suits to most of the audience taste and iPad truly delivers it.

    It can never be ignored that apple is a trend setter, be it a touchscreen phone or a pad.

  • Matthew Pack

    Apple have more cash, more experience and a better understanding of the customer.  They’re gonna keep on winning. Search Giant v Engineering Genius. My money’s on Apple

  • Juhani

    Good thing that the official twitter client isn’t the only option if you’re using Android tablet. There are even few twitter apps that are only for tabs like the TweetComb. Then you have Plume and Seesmic which both have tablet optimized UI. 
    There is no shortage of Android tab apps anymore. When the official client fails go for a 3rd party one. Many of them are very good. 

    Googl+ though.. they really should lead by example..

  • Laser Tek Services

    I definitely like the UI of the Twitter app on the iPad but It’s the ability to add and quickly switch accounts plus the smooth transition that I find very useful. I do most of my social networking on the iPad nowadays because I find it more convenient than the regular browser and of course, it looks more interesting than the regular browser format.

  • David Fung

    Hmmm… When your upcoming 2012 OS doesn’t work on a 6 year old product, I don’t think that’s fragmentation.  

    When you announce Ice Cream Sandwich in December, it’s not on new phones or tables shipping then, it’s still not on most phones or tablets shipping now, and it may never be available for phones that are current models today, THAT’S fragmentation.

    If you say that Google needs to get it’s act together on OS migration, that’s exactly the definition of fragmentation.

  • Anonymous

    But that’s my point. If a barometer sensor is “what suits” weather nerds, then the iPad falls flat 100%. If having a better-than-0.3MP front-facing camera is “what suits” a user, the iPad falls flat. If it’s about “what suits”, then there’s no such thing as better or best, it’s about what a user wants, and there’s no such field as trend-setting if a user isn’t swayed by market hype.

  • Anonymous

    But if the metric used to measure any device’s usability is only the metrics you measure it with, the analysis is off. i.e. “I need storage expansion all the time.” – iPad has no microSD slot so it’s not what I want let alone NEED. Never will be. Plenty of use-scenarios where this makes sense, and if it’s about what “I need” then there is no such thing as “better”. And sorry but I don’t see the point in paying $850 for a device to use faux-4G so I can do Twitter and Google+ “better” “all the time”. Most consumers – 99% – are not in that market column, sorry.

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