First look: The Carbon for Android Twitter app

It's tough to talk about the Carbon for Android Twitter client without saying a few things up front:

  1. No, it's still not available. But that we've been given a pre-release version to share should tell you something.
  2. Yes, we're all very much aware that we've been talking about Carbon, off and on, for more than a year now. (A whopping six stories out of some 6,000 written over 13 months, if our math is right.) Announcements of imminent release have come and gone, followed by long periods of silence. You can either choose to get over that, read this preview and give this app a shot when it's released in the near future, or not. 
  3. There are now two Carbon apps for Android. This one, obviously, is the Twitter app, from the developer dots & lines, which first brought Carbon to webOS, where it garnered much praise. It later came to Windows Phone before being put out to pasture, much to the chagrin of this Microsoft faithful. The other Carbon app is a backup and sync client from Koushik Dutta. We're not sure which app will see first public release (our money's on the backup app), but having two apps with the same name is about as fun for us as it is for you, we reckon.
  4. Carbon (the Twitter app) may well be the best-designed Twitter app we've used yet -- and there are some good ones out there.

So with those things in mind, join us for our first look at the long-awaited Carbon Twitter app.

Updated on Feb. 3: Carbon has been published to Google Play, and we've added a few sentences on the Settings menu, which was not in our preview build.

The Carbon for Android video preview

The Carbon for Android preview

Carbon for Android.

Carbon for Android.

Fire up Carbon for the first time and you're greeted by the familiar hawk logo. (OK, familiar if you've used Carbon before, I suppose.) Logging into your Twitter account is the same process as in any other app. White-on-black themes aren't anything new, but Carbon's timeline design is cleaner than just about any we've used. Not throwing extraneous colors into the mix for links and Twitter handles makes a difference here. Not that those things aren't there, it's that your eye is drawn to the things that matter: Who sent the tweet, their avatar, how long ago it was sent, and the tweet itself.

You get four or five tweets on the timeline, depending on how long they are and whether there's any media attached, such as a Youtube preview or an image. (The Youtube API isn't implemented in our preview build, but it could be added later, the developer tells us. Look for a few other tricks, such as a Vine viewer, too.)

Carbon for Android.

Pull down to refresh, and the timeline tilts on you to show that it's refreshing. It's much cooler than Android's stock method of a glowing light at the top of the list, and it gives it sort of a Star Wars opening crawl look. A number will pop up after the refresh, showing how many new tweets are in that timeline. (Be sure to note the animation here. Nice touch.) 

Flipping between your main timeline, mentions and direct messages is as simple as swiping left and right. When you do that, little header icons will pop down. You can tap them to hop from one timeline to the other, if you prefer. There's no obvious way to jump to the top of a timeline -- and this is but one piece of functionality that differs from most other Twitter apps we've used. Instead, swipe down with two fingers to go to the top of the timeline. Or swipe up with two fingers to go to the end. It's easy, but there's no obvious way to know it's there (at least in our preview build).

Carbon for Android.

Swipe left from the main timeline (by swiping your finger right -- remember motions are all backward, which makes writing this sort of thing fun), and you get the accounts selector. Carbon supports multiple Twitter accounts, which is must for many of us. There are no unified timelines -- you're either looking at one account or another. We go back and forth on which we prefer. (We're admittedly a poor usage case for this sort of thing -- large accounts with a lot of @ replies make a mess out of things pretty quickly.)

Carbon for Android.

Carbon for Android.

A couple ways to interact with individual tweets: You can tap on one to bring up the whole thing, and from there you get buttons to reply, quote, retweet and favorite. There's also an overflow menu (the three-dots menu button) that adds the option to copy the tweet, copy a link to the tweet, or share it via the usual Android sharing options.

Or, if you don't want to open the individual tweet, you can long-press on it from the timeline to open up the reply/retweet options. (Don't linger too long on the screen here, though. Any vertical movement will start a timeline refresh, and the reply/retweet buttons will disappear.)

Carbon for Android.

Carbon for Android.

The conversation view -- in which you can see a series of tweets between you and someone else -- is downright beautiful. Start in an individual tweet and you'll see the replies at the bottom. Pull the tweets up, and the original rotates a bit and heads to the background, making way for the full conversation.

Carbon for Android.

At the bottom of the timeline views are three buttons -- a "+" for composing new tweets, the avatar of the account you're currently using (tap it to view that profile), and another overflow menu button. Tap the latter, and from the right-hand side pops out more list options: Favorited tweets, lists, trendy trending tweets, search, filters and settings. (The settings options weren't completed in our preview build and only pulled up an account selector -- we'll update this post when the full version is released.) Again, there are some nice, subtle animations here.

Carbon for Android.

Composing a tweet isn't exactly rocket science, but it's nicely done in Carbon for Android. If you're using more than one account, you can choose from which you want to post here, but you can't post to more than one at a time. (That's probably not a huge deal for most people.) You've got a few choices for adding a picture -- take a new one, choose one you've already taken -- or you can chose the last picture you took with your phone. It's a cool feature, but on the other hand if I just took a picture and want to tweet it immediately, I'll probably share it directly from the gallery attached to the camera app instead of switching to a Twitter app first. Depending on how often you take pictures with your phone, there's a decent chance you won't remember the last shot you snapped.

Updated Feb. 3: Here's a look at the Settings menu. Note how you can toggle which accounts will ping notifications. You've also got shortcuts to the accounts manager and to ping Carbon for Android for support.

Other initial thoughts ...

  • The big question right now is "Is Carbon better than Falcon Pro?" And it's a good question. Falcon Pro, I think has more overall features. (Having, ya know, actually been released for a while helps with that.) But I think Carbon has a more sophisticated design -- and good design is tougher to do than implementing features. (Never mind that this is a preview release I'm using, and additional features are a given.)
  • The good news on the comparison front is that Carbon for Android is going to be free when it's released to Google Play. So there's no harm in giving it a shot. (Though it will count against Carbon's Twitter token allowance.)
  • Our preview build's not playing nicely with tablets, so we've got nothing to say on that front yet. Don't worry too much about that though. (Update: Ah. T'wasn't our place to say before, but the cat apparently has been let out of the bag. There will be a separate app dedicated for tablet layouts. More on that as soon as we get it.)
  • Scrolling is ridiculously smooth. If your app doesn't scroll like Carbon, you're doing it wrong.

It's tough to find much to complain about in Carbon for Android. If anything, it'd be that there's a bit of a paradigm shift from other Twitter apps in that there are more gestures than traditional buttons, but that all leads to better design, and it's nothing that you can't pick up in a few minutes of use. But those changes could be a little more intuitive. (A quick initial "how-to" overlay could go a long way here.) And a few more features as we mentioned above wouldn't hurt things, but that'll come in time.

And, of course, there's the fact that you can't yet download Carbon. That's a big one, and the saga of its release is hardly lost on us. And after all this, we don't yet have a date to give you. (I'm trying real hard to keep from typing "soon.")

But we will say this much: After even just a few hours with Carbon for Android, you're going to give this one a shot. And it's going to be tough to beat.

Phil Nickinson
  • I want it! I WANT IT NOW!
  • Omg so cool. How does it handle list? I love how plum handled list and that's why it beats falcon
  • Unless there's a real date and its serious. Hard to stay excited.
  • Considering Phil spent the time to write this, I'd say its likely serious. Doesn't generally do things just for the sake of it :-)
  • Except this isn't the first time we've heard this and sometimes this stuff is out of Phil's hands. I'll believe this when it's released. Until then meh.
  • To be fair this isn't the first time a preview or article has been done on Carbon. It's hard to be excited when the release has been botched time and time again. Also the developer isn't the most liked guy on the planet. People's main concern now is support. If it does release will it even be supported/updated? All the other versions of Carbon on other platforms have been pulled.
  • Exactly. As a one man team, he should have continued development on WebOS, you know, the dead ecosystem. That makes perfect sense. You can't trust him for leaving WebOS. And of course he explained why he left WindowsPhone and made Android his home but who cares! We want our Carbon for WinPho to prove Carbon for Android is worth installing for free.
  • Where did I say you can't trust him because he pulled the other versions of the app? I was just pointing out that doing that on top of botching release dates, staying quiet, and blocking people will make people wonder if the app will be supported properly. You sound silly for just taking one line out of my comment and running with it. The bulk of my comment was saying people aren't excited and are skeptical about the app being supported because of the lies and botches. The fact that the other apps where pulled just adds to the skeptical attitude people have.
  • Look at what you just implied for a second time: apps pulled on dead or infant ecosystems adds to "the skeptical attitude people have." It's asinine to include that reasoning. When you do, you imply that you would have trust in the dev if those apps were still active and being developed. Further more, you have an honest gripe concerning botched release dates. Blocking trolls isn't something to hold against him. "Staying quiet" is subjective. He made posts and responded to hundreds of individual tweets. Lately, he has been quiet but then again, he apologized. Same way he did for botched release dates. What this really shows, in my opinion, is that people are unreasonable. Potential users make a valid complaint, get an apology, don't accept it. They don't care about the fact he's been fighting for API access with Twitter and that other business issues arose. No, that doesn't matter. Or, that he's a one man shop with other clients to tend to. Just leave the app be and let your potential user token go to someone who appreciates the work and value this will eventually add to the ecosystem we love.
  • Looking at a developers track record is not asinine. You're taking it as I'm saying don't trust him. I didn't imply anything of the sort. I'm not saying to trust him or not to trust him. I'm giving reasons why skeptical attitudes will be had by people. If you think lies, silence, and apps that the developer pulled (no matter how valid his reasons) don't warrant skepticism then you're delusional. This is the result. He didn't just block trolls. He blocked people who were asking legit questions. He also attacked other designers/developers. Staying quiet is subjective? When you go from "less than 10 days" to not tweeting or saying anything once the said 10 days are up, that my friend is staying silent. People forgave him but it was done time and time again. People defended him but eventually they had to give up. Phil was defending him for a while (I was as well) but eventually even he had to make jokes about it. Apologizing can't automatically rid you of all your doings. Botched first release, people forgave him. Botched another release, less people forgave him but some still did. Botched the last release and people threw in the towel. I'm probably forgetting other release windows but you get the point. No people are very forgiving and reasonable. He had defenders for the longest time. I was one of them. His issue is the lack of communication. When he missed the first released he made a post on G+ and people understood. However, all the other botches he said nothing and handled it poorly. At one point he was making a video and then it turned into a big budget documentary because it never appeared. One man? Ok but I recall Tweetlanes coming out. He just needs to communicate that's all. People making excuses for him is weird to me. Tell him to make another G+ post explaining the difficulties because that's how you handle these situations. There is a reason companies have PR statements when things go wrong.
  • Looking at a developers track record out of context, as you are, is asinine. Criticizing a dev for walking away from dead/nascent platforms is stupid. You keep talking about forgiveness... who cares? Like everyone else, use the app that fits you best. When this comes out, make a judgement call on whether this is better or not. Folks getting touchy over waiting (dear god, not waiting!) over a free, $.99 or $1.99 app and then (ye gods!) having to wait some more... it's stupid.
    It's a free app... enough with the whining.
  • Actually I'm not dumbo. I'm referring to the general public who was excited about this app. I'm saying why they are skeptical about this new release announcement. Me I don't care. I use Falcon and if this comes out I may or may not try it. Who cares? The dev should. I don't. He should care about how the people feel about him and his brand. Again you guys are not reading correctly. I'm not talking from my personal view. I'm talking about how the public will look at this now. I don't think they're getting touchy with waiting but more so with the lack of communication and the lies. I'm not whining. I'm observing and commenting on what I see happening.
  • I have a feeling we are less than 2 weeks away from it being available for the masses. Any hints on timeline you are allowed to share Phil?
  • And after all this, we don't yet have a date to give you. (I'm trying real hard to keep from typing "soon.")
    Does it appear he has an ETA to share? But hey, you have a FEELING it will be less than two weeks, seems legit. Could you describe the said feeling so that if I experience it myself I can also make profound statements like yours, share valuable insights, & possibly even train others on how to recognize these feelings? Is it like a special tingling in your nether regions? If it tingles X amount of time then that equals one week, X amount of time equals two weeks, etc? You could make good money using this gift of yours to predict things like the outcome of the Super Bowl & such. Have you ever considered using your gift in such a manner?
  • Dammm Phil you are luck!!! Almost 1 year after announced you have a first hands review.... Hope this time won´t be late in launch.... Looks nice!!! Tks for the deep review.... So, how will be the push notifications, any tips?
  • It looks cool, but I've already bought TweetCaster Pro and am happy with it. Does Carbon offer any compelling reason to switch other than aesthetics?
  • It will have tablet support, it will have Youtube/Vine API support, it *may* have Site Streams/Interactions API support. What more would you like? Functionality can always be a level playing field among third-party apps for a service. It's the design that sets them apart.
  • Have you tried it on tablets?
  • He said it was buggy
  • Our preview build's not playing nicely with tablets, so we've got nothing to say on that front yet. Don't worry too much about that though. <--- And There's your sign!
  • I've seen the developer's comments/actions/lack of respect towards both other developers and consumers.....and he isn't getting a dime out of me for it.
  • The fact that it's free seems to have escaped your comprehension. So you won't give him a dime? Neither will the rest of us.
  • what if it is ad-driven?
  • It won't be. The dev is specifically against ad-driven app models as it cheapens the UX. As he should be. The only reason it isn't a paid app is because Google Play won't allow him to sell apps from UAE.
  • Why are the "articles" (and I use the term loosely) on Android Central always so patronizing and negative? It's rather off-putting, and I think it's time to remove it from my RSS feed; I'd rather take my ad views somewhere a bit less bitter and a bit more professional.
  • Patronizing? Negative? Bitter? How is this article any of those things, much less all three?
  • Did you read the same article (I use that term because it best describes what's being discussed here) as the rest of us?
  • I think I like Falcon Pro a little better but Carbon will probably be the app i end up going with just because it supports multiple accounts
  • I used this while I was on webOS and it was great! Can't wait to start using it on android, just wish it was ready a few months ago...but hey 'good things come to those who wait'!
  • A black theme & multiple account support? Yes, please.
  • I have to say it is the best looking one and it seems to have most of the basic needed features to feel happy and satisfied using a Twitter app. Other than that I guess when it comes out will they update it with bug fixes and features? It's not wrong to say it is possible that it can have bad support since it is long overdue and they said so much but nothing was ever actually done to prove it for us. When it happens I can make a better judgement.
  • Unicorn.
  • I'd had enormous hope that Carbon would arrive and then it didn't. Much of my respect for this developer faded pretty quickly. I think it was the broken promises over one missed launch window after another. Then the long stretches of silence did nothing to "keep me waiting by the campfire hoping for toasted marshmallows". While I might give this app a look when (and if) it's launched, I will likely have reservations about support and new features for some time to come. The integrity of a developer is something I look for in apps I consider using. When the guys behind Carbon For Android essentially shut down and stopped communicating with their many fans and supporters that just didn't sit well with me.
  • * I support this.
  • No Play Store Link...No f*cks given.
  • one of these statements is a lie.
  • People are allowed to dislike/be skeptical of this app you know. You don't have to hop on the Carbon defence team and argue with everyone who leaves the slightest bit of criticism. Kinda pathetic to read.
  • That was hardly a defensive comment. The post he was replaying to was patently stupid. The article isn't a review of a released app, it's a preview of something clearly not available yet. Complaining that there was no Play link is dumb.
    And claiming he doesn't care is obviously untrue, or he wouldn't have bothered to post.
  • +1
  • Looks great, I cant wait, will buy.
  • Looks great, you will have to wait, & no you WON'T BUY it. Did you even bother to read the article?
    Anyway, couldn't agree more with those who commented on trusting this developer & feeling let down after many broken promises. I hope the guy proves us wrong & actually does release an epic Twitter client. I for one will believe it when there is a link in the Play Store, & I'm not getting my hopes up. For the time being, I'm content with Tweetings.
  • For an app that is still VAPORWARE as far as many of us are concerned, this thing has gotten way too much press from Android Central these many months. It's been coming soon off and on for how long...? Re: Falcon Pro, it's far from the gold standard Twitter app so many, including certain AC columnists hold it up to be. Too many missing features that a basic twitter client should have to be called pro. Nothing has swayed me to stop using TweetCaster Pro, and I'll certainly give Carbon a try when (IF) it ever makes it to the market, but I'm not holding my breath.
  • The problem with a single developer is things can change on his whim. If he decides to change platforms you are done. Same goes if he decides to give up and build a launcher instead.
    I'm not knocking any developer, each has reasons for doing what they do. I wonder if the support will be there since road to release has been so bumpy. But it's a free app, and there are strong alternatives. I keep both falcon and plume on my device and flip back and forth depending on my mood. I'll give carbon a try if for no other reason than to see how it stacks up.
  • Reading half a dozen articles about this app has gotten stale. Every single time I've EVER read the words "carbon" and "Android" in the same sentence have been from Android Central. This app's failure to launch has been telling. Very telling. What isn't telling, is why you continue to write about an app that is not available. With the multitude of Twitter apps in the world, AC , and Phil specifically, continue to write these reviews, all lauding how great this app is (or is going to be). Save your breathe, Phil, and let us know when your buddies put out the app for the rest of us.
  • That's what I don't understand. For an app that has had several release dates and has never truly been released, why is it getting reviewed? It should receive a review when everyone else can use it. This whole review is a tease in my opinion.
  • totally agree
  • If you think writing about an app that's not available is mind boggling, cruise over to WebOS Nation some time.
  • ill get excited once there is a download link
  • Even though it looks great and will be free I think it's just too damn late. If Falcon Pro didn't come along I might still be excited for Carbon. Then again since this guy seems to have taken a Blizzard-like view of communication with customers it really turned me off.
  • Jesus, the comments on this article are unsettling to say the least. Calm down, it's just one app and if it gets released, great. If not, fine because we do have Falcon Pro. And maybe it does seem too late for Carbon now that Falcon Pro has been rising up but you can't dismiss it without trying it. That's the thing. With all the publicity for this app anyone would think it has already been released. I know it's been ages and the developer is shady but look, at least we are getting a dedicated tablet app. For me that makes the wait seem slightly more justified (but still ridiculous). And give the guy a break, I would lack motivation too if I knew all the work I was putting into my app would not get me a dime. It's not about being nice, people need money.
  • I wrote the app off months ago. It was supposed to be available in July. Then August. Then who knows. I still place my money on never. If he were going to launch it he would have done so by now. My bet is that he had planned on releasing it as a paid app, but since he lives in a country that can't get paid android apps, then he decided to release it as a free app. I think he is trying to drag it out to I/O to see if Goog announces his country in the paid apps list.
  • Why would they waste time pushing a beta out to AC if the timeline was "never"?
  • Looks nice, I'll try it out.
  • I love the "No unified timeline" thing. I love Plume, but as someone who manages two business twitter accounts it's super annoying to see all my feeds in one timeline.
  • LOL, people will never learn. You guys will get Web OS'd and WP'd soon.
  • It looks AWESOME and I don't care too much about whether it came out when anticipated or not. However, the developer of Falcon Pro is just so freaking awesome and on the ball that I imagine I will stick with them. I might give Carbon a shot just out of curiosity, but I am loving Falcon Pro.
  • I just don't understand why Falcon Pro gets so much love in the comments on any Twitter client article. I posted the below comment a month ago, and after playing around with FP a bit (again), I wouldn't change a word of it. Is a dark theme and "smooth" scrolling really all it takes to please so many people? Form over function...that's iOS-think. Please enlighten me. original post: Falcon Pro a big disappointment for me, still, even after recent updates. It still lacks basic features that make it a no-go for my daily Twitter client. No multiple accounts, weak filtering/muting options and poor search features make it a poor choice for any kind of power user, no matter how "smooth it feels" or how slick it looks. On all of my daily use phones (Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy S3 and HTC One X), it's not any smoother at scrolling than any other client I use. I've tried them all (Slices, Falcon Pro, Plume, Tweet Lanes, Boid Beta, etc), but it's always TweetCaster Pro that I go back to. YMMV.
  • At this point, I just can't get away from Scope (formerly "SocialScope"). As good as any other Twitter Client may be, I love the fact that Scope has full integrated multiple services into one package (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram, Tumblr and Reddit). On top of that, the Scope interface is pretty nice as well -- I think my only real complaint about Scope is that I can't find a way to do a universal Twitter search...
  • Why all the excitement? I had this on the Touchpad ($150 for the 32GB, thank you), and just didn't see what all the fuss is about. "But whoooooo! Look, it's like, purty and stuff!" C'mon people, let's face facts, when it all comes right down to it. The standard Twitter app is a lot more intuitive, in my opinion and I've used them all. Jamming in multiple features onto one screen? That's batshit insane and makes my head want to explode.