Ever since Twitter turned short messaging into an incredibly popular art form there’s been a uniquely mobile aspect to social networking, and the iPad is perfect for this with its nice big screen.
Social networking apps for Apple’s tablet can also extend the reach of your existing social network accounts, add new functionality to your existing social networks, and combine social networks in various ways to save time and provide greater convenience. Here are hands-on reviews of seven of them.
Requires iOS 7.0 or higher
Twitter for the iPad is a simple, easy-to-use app that was recently redesigned with a very spare, simple look, . It has the usual 140 character limit, and you can send direct messages, and follow and respond to your friends’s tweets.
Before using it, you must first have a Twitter account set up in the iPad’s Settings area; if you don’t already have an account, the Settings tab also gives you the option to create one.
If you do create a new account, Twitter will ask if it can look at your contacts to suggest people to follow. It will also ask your location. Then it’s on to some suggestions of several dozen celebrities to follow, and finally to a more extensive list of several thousand possible people to follow in various categories like Technology and Health. After that, you’re on your own, searching for who or what to follow and posting your own tweets.
There are four buttons on the bottom of the screen, labeled Home, Notifications, Messages and Me. The Home screen shows the tweets you’re receiving; the Notifications screen lets you know about new followers, which of your tweets have been re-tweeted, etc.; the Messages screen displays direct messages; and the Me screen shows you what other Twitter users see when they search for you, plus it includes links to Settings and a button to switch between your alternate accounts, if any.
In the upper right corner are a small magnifying glass search icon and an equally small pen icon — tap on the latter to start writing a tweet.
Twitter is integrated into iOS and many third-party applications, so its possible to send tweets from inside these apps. For example, in the Safari web browser, tapping the Action button brings up a window with possible actions, one of which is Twitter. Tapping on this icon will open a message with a link to the page you’re on, as well as space for you to add your own comments.
Requires iOS 5.0 or higher
Tweetbot bills itself as a “full featured Twitter client with a lot of personality.” Whether it really has personality is debatable, but it most definitely does have one thing Twitter does not: A price tag. It costs a relatively modest $2.99, and you might or might not feel Twitter is fine without these embellishments.
So what does Tweetbot do? Basically it provides a more supercharged user interface. It creates Timelines of tweets from one of your lists, such as for friends or family. It makes it easier to view threads by adding directional swipe commands to each tweet you view.
Swipe left to see more details, swipe right to see the conversation this tweet is part of. You can also double tap to get more details, and there’s a user-definable triple tap that you can customize to do whatever you want with a tweet.
After you install Tweetbot, it suggests that you follow Tweetbot to get update news. I found if you don’t agree to this suggestion you’ll never make it to the next screen, which is the main interface for Tweetbot. This interface is intended to replace Twitter’s (though you can still use Twitter on the iPad, with both apps using the same account that’s registered in iOS.)
Tweetbot’s Search function has a bit more to offer than the standard Twitter app, in that you can search for nearby tweets, trends, and people.
In landscape mode this app is more PC-like, in that there’s a list of menu items on the left that never go away (offering Timeline, Mentions, Messages, Favorites, Search, Profile, Lists, Retweets, and Mute Filters.) These words become cryptic icons in portrait mode.
If you use Twitter a lot, Tweetbot is worth checking out.
Just be aware that this software hasn’t been updated since June of 2014, which has drawn fire from users who have paid for it and want some bugs fixed.
Requires iOS 7.0 or higher
When you first log into Facebook on the iPad it shows your News Feed page, just as with the browser version. This page looks terrific on the iPad, with less advertising than the website includes.
Along the bottom edge are icons you tap to bring up the News Feed, Friend Requests, open the Messenger app, Notifications, and the More menu.
The More menu is a catch-all of links to many Facebook features, including ways to control which posts appear on the News Feed. By default this is listed by Top Posts, but the More menu includes the option to list all posts starting with the most recent — something many people wish was the default. You also have the option to see all posts from friends collected into various groups, such as Close Friends, Family, and Acquaintances.
The App Center looks like an alternate way to get apps without going through the iTunes store, but really it’s just a collection of links to Facebook-friendly applications on Apple’s software store.
Also in the More menu is the Help Center, several different types of settings, Policies, Report a Problem, and Log Out, allowing several people to share an iPad and to use this app with different accounts
Overall, this app is about on par with the browser version and is a great mobile alternative, especially as it tends to use less data than the website.
Requires iOS 7.0 or higher
Although iPad users have the option to use Apple’s FaceTime for video chatting, that app isn’t much use for communicating with Windows or Android users. Skype is a very good cross-platform app that can do everything FaceTime can and more.
After installing and opening the software, you’ll need to create a profile, including a phone number (assumed to be mobile), your location, birthdate, and to write about yourself and your interests.
What do you get for all this data entry effort? The ability to do free free video chatting or make phone calls (over Wi-Fi), and to send and receive instant messages.
It’s the free video chatting that is Skype’s most popular feature. It works well when used with Windows, Mac, and Android, and there’s no charge to call anyone in the world.
This app can also be used to make voice calls to regular phones, and Skype charges for this service. Still, the prices are often less than phone companies charge.
The IM abilities are a nice addition, enabling you to do text chatting with people who don’t have access to iMessage.
Requires iOS 8.0 or higher
The goal of this software is to help you find content on the Internet that you’re interested in, as well as find out what your friends are reading about. You let the app know what categories you like and the app does the rest.
When you first launch StumbleUpon, you need to sign up with Facebook, Google, or an email account. Signup is painless enough, with no confirmation required.
Next the app asks you to choose some interests. These categories are listed alphabetically, starting with Action Movies, Alternate Energy, Alternative Rock, American Football, and so forth, and ending with Technology, Travel, and UFO, with several dozen choices in total. I picked five, and then a welcome screen beckoned me to swipe and take a tour.
The interface for StumbleUpon couldn’t be much simpler:: you’re presented with a collection of articles, images, and videos in the various categories you indicated you are interested in. You can read these, and move between them by swiping right to left, and as you do, you keep seeing more items of interest in your category. It never repeats, at least for fifteen or twenty minutes worth of swiping.
Each page you visit is contained within the StumbleUpon frame, and at the bottom thumbs up and down buttons let you vote your preferences. You can also save articles in lists to be read later. These lists can be private or public — that’s the social aspect of this app, as you can go to a “Discover Lists” area and view the collections created by other users.
StumbleUpon proved true to its name. I spent far more time stumbling upon interesting articles and videos than I had intended to when I set out to write this review. I think that this is the ultimate endorsement.
Requires iOS 7.0 or higher
Flipboard bills itself as “Your Personal Magazine,” and when you first launch it, the welcome screen says, “The best stories handpicked on any topic” so it should be no surprise that this app is in some ways similar to StumbleUpon. However, Flipboard also integrates Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more into a very uniform interface.
First you create your account, which requires first picking areas of interest (news, technology, sports, style, film, travel, science, etc.) There are about 200 categories to choose from.
Then the software builds you a Flipboard that shows up like a custom magazine reflecting the interests you selected. The image tiles for each category can be moved around so your favorites can be first. Click on one of these and you’re offered a series of relevant articles that you can swipe through.
Unlike with StumbleUpon, however, all of these articles are reformatted to appear really nicely on the Flipboard screen, in a very elegant and consistent magazine format. It feels much more like reading a real magazine than any other aggregation type app that I’ve ever seen.
Tell Flipboard you want to also view Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking service and you can also use the app to view your timelines, post messages, view other messages that reference you, and more. The advantage here is keeping these functions within the same magazine-style interface.
You can also choose to follow other Flipboard users and see what articles they are interested in.
Free – $9.95/month
Requires iOS 8.0 or higher
Hootsuite is a very powerful and professional tool for managing multiple social network accounts, including multiple Twitter accounts. It includes the ability to schedule tweets and Facebook posts in advance and to send them out when you think they’ll achieve maximum impact.
You can access up to three accounts for free, using all the features of Hootsuite, including scheduling posts. You’ll need to pay $9.95 a month to control more than three, though.
The iPad version works seamlessly with the Hootsuite PC version and the price (free or ten bucks a month) includes all formats (iPad and iPhone, Android, and PC).
You start by creating an account with your email address. Then you tell it which accounts you want to access, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Foursquare. Each of these accounts will then get its own page in the application, giving you an overview of everything. These views aren’t as user friendly as are the iPad apps for each of these services, but they are much more condensed, which is probably what you want when you’re using a social networking service for work rather than fun.
The Hootsuite app will keep track of how many clickthroughs your posts get, but only if you use the built-in ow.ly URL shortening tool.
Hootsuite might be a bit of overkill for the ordinary person who just has one Facebook and one Twitter account. But it is ideal for public relations professionals or anyone else who must send out large numbers of messages regularly across several different accounts.