Unless you've been living under a rock (or maybe just don't read tech news) you probably already know that next Tuesday, October 4, is when Apple makes its next major announcement. While the company is tight-lipped as usual, we know that it will probably announce at least one new iPhone  and when it plans to launch iOS 5, the operating system that powers the iPhone, iPod Touch  , and iPad  .
One of the big known features of the new iOS is Twitter integration. Apple generally does a great job of creating intuitive interfaces for just about everything and what we've learned of Twitter on the iPhone sounds great, as you'll be able to tweet directly from Safari, Photos, YouTube, and Camera. But if you're a serious Twitter user, you're still going to need a third-party app to get all that Twitter has to offer.
This week's collection of iOS apps is made up of Twitter clients. The first mimics a popular desktop Twitter client and creatively uses column views. The second is straight from Twitter itself and offers even more than the Twitter Web site. The last may have the most features of all, along with a well-designed interface.
TweetDeck (free) is an app that's meant to mimic the popular desktop Twitter client of the same name, and it does a fairly good job. For reference, the desktop client shows you four columns: tweets from friends on the left, then tweets where you're mentioned, TweetDeck recommended users, and finally what terms are currently trending. The iPhone app lets you view one column at a time and you can swipe to see mentions and direct tweets to you by default, but you can add columns to track specific users or you can combine feeds, just like the desktop app. What's more, changes to columns on the desktop or in the app are automatically synced so you can track lists and feeds created wherever you want. TweetDeck also features Facebook status integration.
TweetDeck offers all the major Twitter features, though they're sometimes hard to find. Along with posting updates to Twitter, you can retweet posts, add tweets to favorites, read and send direct messages, and perform searches based on keywords. You can enter geolocation information, search through usernames, and much more. But you also have plenty of options for customization, letting you combine any number of different feeds under one column. A nifty pinch feature puts you into customize mode, in which you can reorder columns, add feeds to the active column, or delete columns you're no longer using. Touching a tweet brings up a detail view where you can view more info about the user and conversations related to that tweet. While the features for customization are not immediately apparent, and the interface is less than intuitive, once we got the basics down, we thought TweetDeck performed admirably. Sadly, you can't schedule tweets using the iPhone app as you can with the desktop version, but hopefully this feature will come in future updates.
Overall, TweetDeck is pretty good option for staying up-to-date on Twitter. It could use some interface tweaks or a help file to make learning the basics easier (along with a scheduling option), but once you learn the ropes you'll see that it is a worthy client for tracking the latest news on Twitter.
Twitter (free) for iPhone is the official client for iOS and it offers all the features you need to keep up with and participate in this constantly growing news and information phenomenon. The app defaults to all incoming tweets from users you're following, but there are buttons across the bottom to quickly view mentions, read direct messages, or search for topics or users, and an options button in the lower right so you can add and customize feeds the way you want. Unlike on the site, you'll be able to add and track as many accounts as you want. You also have two options for retweeting, again unlike on the site, with regular retweets and quoted retweets so you can provide commentary.
The official Twitter app is laid out nicely, making it easy to get to all the basic functions in only a few taps of your finger. To retweet, send a direct message, or any other basic function you need only swipe horizontally on a tweet to bring up buttons for every action. If you want to view trending topics you can hit the search button and you get a list of the latest keywords below the search field. You can also save searches if you find yourself searching for similar terms frequently. Just like on the site, you can use the search field to discover new topics and users, and if you find something you like, you can quickly add it to your feed or create a list to keep your followed-user numbers down. Serious Twitter users will lament the lack of scheduling features, but in fairness, you can't schedule tweets on the Twitter Web site either.
Overall, the Twitter app for iPhone is an excellent choice for keeping up with status updates and posting tweets with photos and geolocation tagging, and offers plenty of customization options. Those who follow and participate with Twitter will appreciate the official app.
HootSuite (free) is a Twitter app that sports an extremely intuitive interface and offers just about all the features you could want in a Twitter client. You'll need to set up a HootSuite account to get started, but from there you get integration with Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare all from within the app. You can manage multiple accounts, read and comment on Facebook profile and fan page feeds, mass reply to all recipients, and set up scheduled updates. This might be the best Twitter client we've tried so far, with tons of added features that make it incredibly useful--even for pro Twitter users.
The interface separates your feeds into a streams list, making it easy to get the info you want immediately. Adding feeds and creating custom feeds is as easy as hitting an edit/add button at the top, then adding a feed that can be custom-tailored by keywords, search results, or lists you create. There are also buttons across the bottom to access your streams, to search for topics or keywords (with trending topics right below), for Foursquare access, and for settings so you can set your preferences exactly the way you want.
HootSuite lets you perform all the basic functions of Twitter, but also adds several handy options along with stat tracking so you can follow Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare updates and see how your posts to each site perform. It's also incredibly useful for widespread conversations, offering translations for more than 50 languages. You can create custom lists to monitor specific keywords, view full conversation histories, and add geolocation info and photos to any update.
Definitely the most feature-rich app in this collection, HootSuite offers everything you need to keep up with Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare. The intuitive interface, enormous number of customization options, and ability to schedule updates make this app the natural pick for the serious social Web site user.