[Review] Leaf for Twitter: Beautifully designed, strong potential

IMG_1440

Leaf’s notification UI after sending a message.

One of my favorite iOS designers has always been Surenix. In the past, he’s created Power for Apple Watch, and two jailbreak themes (Ayecon and Ayeris). Now, he’s teamed up with developer iPlop on a gorgeous new Twitter app for the iOS App Store, Leaf.

The best way for me to review Leaf is to compare it to my previous Twitter client, which would be Tweetbot. So here’s the thing, Twitter is by far the most used third-party application on my iPhone without a doubt. I use it on a daily basis as part of my work life. I don’t particularly love Tweetbot, but it’s the best option on the market right now. It’s feature packed with tons of options for power users. That’s tough to beat.

Design

Now, having used Leaf for the past few days or so, it has become a much more enjoyable experience. What I love about Surenix is that he pays attention to the smallest of details in design. While Leaf isn’t up to snuff with Tweetbot in terms of features, the design is absolutely beautiful.
IMG_1441

I’m currently using Leaf in dark mode 24/7. The combination of dark mode and a Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus makes it feel like a seamless experience. Referring back to Tweetbot with its dark mode (which, to me isn’t all that great), Leaf is steps ahead of what Tweetbot has to offer. Finally, a developer understands that a black interface looks truly gorgeous, rather than making it some odd gray shade. And for those who adore Tweetbot’s automatic theme switching based on brightness, this is also available in Leaf.

IMG_1442

There are a few other design aesthetics that also make it better than most Twitter clients. For example, the profile view is a tap away on the top left corner. That view also allows you to quickly access your other Twitter accounts and is also where you manage all of your settings. In Tweetbot (on iOS), I opted not to have the profile view as one of the tabs at the bottom because it’s not something I need to access all the time, but it’s a pain to get to whenever I do need it.

Overall, really good design. Very simple, not much clutter and it looks gorgeous.

Functionality

I wouldn’t say Leaf disappoints in any stretch of the imagination. It works well for most people and provides a very good experience.

Before I get into what I don’t like about the app, I’d like to start with what it does, and what it does well.

FullSizeRender

One of my favorite features of Tweetbot is timeline streaming. The biggest drawback is that streaming only works over Wi-Fi. As an unlimited data user, I appreciate that Leaf at least gives you the option to stream your timeline over a cellular connection. But Leaf takes it a step further and streams your @replies and direct messages. In addition, Leaf provides a much more consistent experience in this regard. Sometimes Tweetbot will flat out not sync my timeline between devices or stop streaming for no apparent reason.
IMG_1444

Sending or replying to tweets in app is what you would come to expect from a Twitter client. It allows you to add photos or videos, location data, and of course, tweet. Tied in with design, the compose window is much more elegant than any other client. Rather than putting an empty space between the keyboard and compose window, Leaf blurs the background so you still have some context of where you are in the app. Something I’d like to see is a way to minimize tweets, similar to Apple’s implementation in the Mail app, to allow me to reference other tweets if I need to.

Direct messages is something so basic, yet they’ve redefined that experience as well. Rather than have a list of direct messages and having to tap in and out of each one, you just swipe between each individual thread. Leaf has pretty much gotten rid of the entire list view of something more simple and easy to use, in addition to shaving off seconds at a time going in and out of individual messages. Composing a new direct message is also consistent within the view, nice touch.

Throughout the entire Leaf experience, every time a keyboard appears it uses the Twitter keyboard that has dedicated @ and # buttons, except for search. Leaf’s search function is pretty barebones but it works as it should. Aside from that one detail, there’s nothing to complain about in that regard.

Now, on to what could be potential deal breakers for those who have another client that want to switch to Leaf.

Two of the biggest disappointments for me is the lack of 3D Touch support and no iPad app. I screamed and yelled at Tweetbot when it didn’t have any 3D Touch support either when I had originally got my 6s Plus. Now, having it for so long it almost feels barbaric that an application doesn’t have some basic implementation of it. Again, I whined at Tweetbot for not updating their iPad client for the longest time, but having no support for it means I have to resort to another client on the iPad. Though, to give Leaf some credit here, it does have full support for iOS 10 and its rich notifications, which does make up for it.

Signing in to your accounts can be annoying if you’re not signed into them on iOS. Yes, similar to how the stock Twitter app works, you can only sign in to accounts you’ve signed into on iOS. I get that third-party clients have a limit in terms of how many tokens they have per application, but flat out not allowing you to do so is not okay. Along the same lines, I would love to see some form of single-sign on implemented here as well. No other client that I’m aware of does this and it would give Leaf a competitive lead. Fast switching accounts would be appreciated as well.

Being a Tweetbot user, one of my favorite features about it is it’s activity tracking. It allows me to see who’s followed me; liked, retweeted, or replied to my tweets. Not a deal breaker but would be nice to have.

Going back to profile viewing, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, the only drawback is the lack of image previews or a dedicated media timeline. Being able to glance over photos/videos/links someone’s shared is a key component in my experience. Again, not a deal breaker.

Something I personally use every blue moon is mute filters. Leaf lacks any form of muting support which means if there’s a large event going on in the world that you have no interest in, there’s no way to ignore it on your timeline.

The list of small, nitpick details can go on for quite some time. But, it doesn’t make Leaf a bad client, it just means Tweetbot goes above and beyond in that department.

Conclusion

With that being said, the developers of Leaf have said that most of the drawbacks mentioned in this review is being worked on and should be available in the coming weeks as a 1.1 release.

For me personally, with all the drawbacks it may have, Leaf has a permanent spot on my home screen, replacing where Tweetbot lived. It may not have as many features as its competitors, but it has promise and is robust enough for the typical Twitter user.

With the 1.0 release that will be available on the App Store, I can only recommend it to avid Twitter users. For power users, stick to your other clients for now. With 1.1? That can change.

Leaf is now available on the App Store for $4.99.

Tags: , , ,