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What Spice Labs’ Twitter App Trill Can Do; Bollywood Tweets


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When it come to mobile applications, I’m usually unforgiving: most web related applications eat up memory, space and suck the life out of batteries. Spice Labs‘ Twitter client Trill, doesn’t do that. I’ve been using it off and on for the last month or so, and it is one of the better Twitter clients for Symbian that I’ve tried: Gravity is clearly the most popular Symbian based client for Twitter, and I’ve often wondered why Nokia doesn’t acquire it. Also, unlike some other twitter applications, Trill doesn’t pop up annoying alerts. It’s interface is fairly intuitive and easy, and frankly, quite similar to Gravity in a few respects.

What Spice Mobile Plans To Do

Spice Labs CEO Lokesh Gupta told me last week that the idea was to initially get a good functional twitter client out, and then iterate. They intend to roll out features like geolocation information, and the posting and browsing of photographs (some apps integrate services like Twitpic). There’s also a plan to add support for Nokia touch screen phones. Gupta said that they’ll look at understanding usage patterns better – what users do, where do they drop off, why do they drop off, what is the frequency of updates etc. The product design will need be different for people who follow 800 people (like I do), those who follow maybe 10-20 people.

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Spice Labs has also launched another Twitter application since, called Bollywood Tweets, which allows them to follow Twitter updates from Bollywood film stars. Several Bollywood stars are on Twitter, and this just makes it easy to follow them, and even get SMS updates from Bollywood stars.

On White Labelling & Nokia Focus

It makes sense for Spice Labs to begin with the Nokia platform, since Nokia still has a majority market share in India. According to a recent report from Opera Software, the top 10 handsets being used to access the Mobile Internet are all Nokia. Spice Labs is trying to build traction by working with Nokia, using their Ovi service, working with twitter users to spread the word. After they build user traction, they’ll look to leverage the telecom ecosystem to bring more users on board. Gupta said that they haven’t yet considered white labelling the application for telecom operators because it’s only been three weeks since the launch of the application, or even on the monetization model around it. The monetization that they’ve seen other applications use include ad supported models, freemium (some parts paid), and subscription models.

What Trill Can Do

One of the things I don’t quite get about Twitter applications, is why not many of them go beyond the basic functionality that Twitter offers. Having additional features could serve as a key differentiator for an application, and sometimes serve as a lock-in for users who would otherwise migrate to a new app. A few options we thought could be used:

– Favorites/Bookmarks with categorization: I tend to favorite tweets in order to read them later, or read the articles linked to in the tweets, later. As far as I’ve seen, no twitter client allows me to favorite tweets, and categorize them for future reference.
– Save Tweets: the problem with Twitter is that usually, one can’t search tweets beyond a few days. the data, once tweeted, is not openly accessible. Why not have a premium feature that allows users to index their tweets online, or those of a specific user, and later recover the data through search.
– Social News: Create a social newspaper using Twitter, showcasing for users, daily news from news sources followed by them, or retweeted by their followers. Segment the news updates according to category (if possible), and rank the news updates according to either the number of Retweets from the users social circle, or by the number of retweets that tweet has received. Given that I’m following 817 twitter users, I’m now finding it difficult to track news via Twitter, and it’s once again becoming a conversational medium for me.
– Sponsored Twitter IDs: once  Trill reaches a certain threshold, it can introduce recommended Twitter IDs into the mix, or introduce a sponsored ‘Who To Follow’ sub section. Not that I would recommend it, though. I hate Twitter’s ‘Who To Follow’ recommendation bar, but that’s more because it’s right on top, and I can’t ignore it
– Content Within The App: One problem I face often while browsing twitter on the mobile, is that most of the links open up full size, and not really optimised for mobile. So my data consumption increases, memory usage is significant when browsing a full site, and the phone is rather slow to use. There are browsers like Opera which repurpose pages at the back end, and deliver the optimised for the mobile. I know it’s irrational to expect Spice Labs to create a browser, but this is a pain-point.

A couple of usability suggestions for Trill:
– In the menu, include both Sign Out and Exit options. I found myself signing out when I really wanted to only exit
– In the Reply menu, Retweet was the first option, and I’ve now thrice accidentally retweeted replies. Perhaps it’s better to have reply as the first menu option.

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  • Reader

    The app screenshots in your article are confusing. Probably fake.

    What do the 2 different screens indicate? At a first glance, I found the two screens to be same.

    The person profile is shown as 'rockstar_ricky', and the tweets are from different users.

    Photoshopping, anyone?

    • Reader

      Thanks for fixing the fiasco of 2 same screenshots.

  • Nikhil,
    Interesting that you have put Social News as one your wishlist items. We are working on exactly that at inagist (http://inagist.com). We have categorized the topics and show the most popular stories. You can login using your twitter id and customize the channels you want to track, we have close to 50 channels now. You can also track trending stories, whether its Emmy Awards or Intel Infineon rumors. And the social aspect is where you can see what your friends are reading and what stories are trending across your friends. Even search would have a social component where you can see your friend's tweets first, and then the rest.

    Karthik

  • With regard to the first point on what Trill can do, the latest version of Gravity has integration to Read It Later. So you can directly put articles in your twitter stream to your RIL list and read it later on your PC.