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Hands-on Twitter's official Android app

Twitter's new Android app looks good and packs some perks, but it also has a serious drawback.

Official Twitter app for Android
There are plenty of Twitter-helpers for Android, but only one that Twitter created in-house.

It's been about a month since Twitter began contributing its official apps to the BlackBerry marketplace, rather than sitting back and letting third-party developers take the reins. We checked out Twitter's new, free, official in-house Android app over the weekend and for the most part, we've been liking what we see.

While there's no shortage of third-party Twitter apps in the Android Market, Twitter's has an edge that the others don't--integrating contacts with the Android address book. That means you'll be able to view your buddy's Twitter photo and most recent update from the address book. The entry also serves as a shortcut for quickly jumping to the Twitter profile in question within the native Twitter app. (Too bad you can't tweet someone directly from here.)

The rest of the app also holds its own against the slew of now-competing Twitter-helpers. Twitter can notify you of incoming tweets in various ways, and offers a choice of photo and URL-uploading service. Its two home screen widgets broadcast recent tweets; the larger one includes a text field for your status updates.

Twitter's attractive splash screen lines up quick links to see your friends' Twitterstream, mentions, direct messages, lists, retweet activity, and personal profile. We appreciate being able to upload a new photo from the smartphone, turning on geolocation, and adding @usernames from a drop-down list.

However, we vastly prefer the @username autocomplete mechanism found in apps like TweetCaster and Touiteur. We think Twitter ought to include skinning options for those who prefer a less cheery style of Twitter-blue icon eye-candy, but that's minor compared to our most serious complaint--support for just one user account at a time. When the app can handle multiple accounts, we might consider switching.

You can try Twitter for free from the Android Market on Android phones running operating system 2.1 and above, which limits the number of people who can currently use the app. Luckily, since co-collaborator Google plans to open the code for this build as part of the Twitter API, we'll look forward to seeing how other developers fold in access to Android's address book on top of what they've already got.